By VIC SPROUSE
CHARLESTON -- Who'd a thunk it?
When Joe Manchin came sweeping to office with a 69 percent win (a number everyone heard ad nauseum that first year), he made some aggressive moves with the privatization of Workers' Comp leading the way.
I disagreed with his approach (raising taxes, which we later found out was unneeded), but you still had to be impressed with his drive and the changes he wanted to make.
In year two, Manchin slowed, as would be expected, but still enacted some changes. Again, I disagreed with the approach to slowly lower the food tax, instead of total elimination.
Once again, while disagreeing with the approach, you had to admire that at least he had the administration in drive.
But, this year? Holy Cow. There wasn't one significant proposal in the entire State of the State.
Tax reform? Yawn. The one tax that everyone can agree needs to be eliminated is the "Welcome to West Virginia" tax on cars. Of course, instead of simply eliminating the tax, we are now going to run our newcomers to the state (some who can't afford the so-called 'privilege' tax) through a complicated tax credit process. So, they will still have to pay it and then sometime the next year (maybe as much as 15 months away), they will get reimbursed. So, if you come to the state in January 2007, pay the privilege tax, the state will give you a credit in April or May of 2008.
Again, just eliminating it would simply be WAY too easy for the administration.
Legal reforms? ...
(That's silence, you hear) Tsk. Tsk.
Even the Governor has to realize it's desperately needed. But, not even a peep.
A few million here, a few million there, some snoozer proposals here and there and of course the doozy of now tying economic development dollars (you know the ones that bring jobs to the state) to the ever important issue of LITTER. Yeah, they corollate.
Oh, wait. The Governor did have one MEGA proposal. He plans to eliminate every drop of foreign oil in the state by the year 2030.
What a riot.
I assume next year's state of the state will include World Peace by 2035, mending of the Ozone layer by 2040, and the use of levitation as a means of transportation by 2045.
How would you like to be the poor dude who gets the assignment of eliminating all foreign oil use in the state by 2030?
Joe comes busting in the room, pats the newbie on the back and says, "Hey, buddy, listen, I have a simple assignment for you, completely eliminate foreign oil in our state by 2030. Kaboom."
I guess the good thing is you could probably keep the job until about 2025 if you were a good bullshitter. But, by then, when the Governor finally figures out in 2025 what we all realize in 2007 (that it's one of the most ridiculous and unattainable plans we've ever heard of), then the guy might be able to qualify for a pension.
My point is this. Bob Wise proposed more in his third year than Joe Manchin has. Heck, Cecil Underwood proposed more.
It's way, way, way too early for the administration to slip into autopilot. But, it seems they already have.
The only other explanation is the Governor is sick of these pesky regular sessions where, you know, we actually have time to debate issues and make amendments and he is now going to run government via special session.
But, I don't think that's the case.
One Senator made a good point. With the Governor at 70 percent approval rating, why tread on difficult issues?
Because the state needs it and can ill afford to go on cruise control for the next two years.
We all need the state to move forward and we simply can't wait until after Joe's "I'm-safe-in-2008-how-about-you?" reelection to make it happen.
Sprouse has served in the Legislature since 1995 and resides in Charleston. He graduated from Penn State University with a Chemical Engineering degree and currently owns and operates several fitness centers in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.