I’d like to point out one impossible-to-deny fact – Robert C. Byrd brought home the goods. You can call it pork, bacon or whatever. The fact remains that we have lost a funnel of federal funding.
Sen. Byrd’s efforts have resulted in more than 25 federal operations locating to the state, supporting nearly 10,000 federal and contractor personnel. They represent an annual $1.4 billion infusion into West Virginia’s economy, when one takes into account property, sales and income taxes generated; money put into the hands of state-owned businesses; enrollment in our schools; and later generations of folks who will call West Virginia home. That number does not account for the private sector jobs and services that have materialized as a result of that infusion.
The senator has been responsible for major renovations of, and additions to, each of the four Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in West Virginia; not only helped save but bolstered the profile of Charleston’s West Virginia Air National Guard base; pumped money into Martinsburg’s base; re-energized the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown; and supplied funding for a myriad of other projects and initiatives.
Sen. Byrd is nearly singularly responsible for our impressive interstate system, including the major interstates and Corridor G. A five-hour drive from Williamson, on the Kentucky border, is now a 75-minute trek; folks who had no city water nor sewer service are now happy beneficiaries thanks to Sen. Byrd; the courthouse his motorcade passed by during his funeral procession is named for him, as are countless other projects around the state; Wheeling Jesuit and Shepherd universities, among others, are beneficiaries of his goodwill. The list goes on and on.
Also gone, largely as a victim of a years-long partisan attack, is Rep. Allan Mollohan. Rep. Mollohan lost the May primary to a relative unknown. No disrespect to his opponent but Rep. Mollohan also brought significant dollars and jobs to his district, including the same high-tech consortium on the Morgantown-Fairmont corridor that Sen. Byrd helped fund.
So, the reality is Sen. Byrd is irreplaceable and Rep. Mollohan’s record wasn’t shabby. Funding and jobs will no doubt be lost. West Virginia’s annual budget will suffer.
We should not deliberately lose further ground by allowing that seat to remain empty for a long time, allowing lost seniority, lost funding opportunities and lost public consciousness when the subject turns to West Virginia.
We are a small, modest-in-income state. It is already easy to overlook West Virginia and would have been far simpler if not for that wonderful lion from Raleigh County, Sen. Byrd.
Our future is too precious to leave Sen. Byrd’s seat empty or turn it over to a “placeholder” who has no clout. Surely we can arrive at a more sensible solution.
I think Sen. Byrd would want it that way.