By VIC SPROUSE
That was my reaction to Gov. Joe Manchin's State of the State speech.
First, I will always say the Governor delivers a good speech. He is likable. He is affable.
But, holy cow, what a yawner of a speech. Was there any substantive proposals that actually will change the direction of our state?
The only thing missing from the Governor's speech was some mention of candy canes and rainbows.
I wanted the lady from the 1980s commercials to yell "Where's the beef?"
OK, a couple points ...
* * *
Bullying? A commission on bullying? Yawn. I mean, who supports bullying? You're not going out on a limb by being opposed to bullying (which every school already has a policy on). The Governor proposed the government solution to all problems - a Commission - to study bullying. Geez Louise.
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Making Promise Scholars pay back their scholarship if they choose to take a job out of state?
On the surface is sounds like a good idea? But, it's a simpleton's solution to the problems we have in this state.
Most students here would like to stay. It's not their fault our economy isn't competitive and jobs abound across our borders.
No one wants our students to go to other states, but, hey if they find a wonderful job outside the state, good for them.
And, let's face it, sometimes it's a good thing for our state for our students to move out, experience other areas of the country, and bring those learnings back to the state.
And, it's good for our state to attract students from other states here to West Virginia.
So, the Governor wants to make the students of our state sign a contract, with an iron-clad Rich Rodriquez-esque buyout clause. You if MUST leave the state to make a living, you have to pay the scholarship back. I'm sure we'll tack some interest on there as well.
I'm sorry, but this may be the dumbest idea I have ever heard.
And, another problem this RichRod buyout plan within the Promise Scholarship has is what about "needs-based' Scholarships? Shouldn't they also have the same requirement to pay back their scholarship if they don't stay in West Virginia? Why should they be off the hook?
Actually, let's calculate the educational costs, K-12, for every student. If you don't stay in the state, well, then, let's make them pay the costs of their education back to the state if they aren't LOYAL enough to stay in the state.
Crazy kids daring to move to better their lives, we'll show them for even THINKING about moving to Bluefield, VA.
I'm sorry for my sarcasm, it's a kooky idea.
You are now going to make parents decide whether or not their child should take the scholarship because their potential field may take them out of state and heck, if they want to get a student loan, they can already do that, probably for a smaller rate of interest.
No, no, no, no, no. So, we want to reward the best and brightest in our school system, well, ONLY if we put a gun to their head and make them stay here in the state.
All the while, we are trying to attact out-of-state students here to our state. Sorry, like I said, it's a silly idea.
* * *
My favorite part of the speech (and, doesn't he have speech writers that check this stuff), was when the Governor talked about the increased flexibility he wanted to give counties and school systems. Wonderful.
Then, about 10 minutes later, he said that he was going to require the school systems to spend 100 percent of the extra money they are getting back in property taxes on teacher salaries.
How do you give more flexibility by requiring them to spend 100 percent of their money a certain way? A few Senators were cracking up about it.
This proposal is DOA. I'm sorry. I can't imagine any legislator tying the hands of their school systems by imposing a daunting mandate on them. No, that isn't going to happen.
* * *
Was it me, or was the Legislature's response to the Governor's speech tepid at best. Maybe it was because the speech was 90% fluff and 10% substance, but still, I think there was one standing ovation, and there simply wasn't much enthusiasm. In fact, it felt like a Year 6 speech, instead of an election year fire up the troops.
I think the lack of competition for Manchin hurts him. He, and his speech, are almost taken for granted.
I'm sorry, but competition makes you better. And, with Joe not facing any serious opponent in either party, it felt like a speech he coasted through.
That's why I said what I said. Manchin was wrapped during his last campaign because his campaign was made up of "sunshine, candy canes, and rainbows." In other words, he didn't say anything specific about anything.
* * *
OK, a few nitpicky items.
Why, oh why, oh why, do we have to go through this same cookie cutter speech year after year. Goodness, change it up a little bit.
In fact, Joe is so used to giving the speech, that he launched right into it without really any pause. He shot straight into it.
He never did really say "The State of the State is Good ... or Strong ... or It Sucks."
And, do we have to trot out the obligatory person who got a better job and the company who created three jobs and this person and that person?
I mean, it's the same thing year after year.
I don't know who started it, maybe Caperton, and certainly Wise "perfected" it, by that I mean, since he didn't have anything else to say, he spent the entire speech making people stand up for some reason or another.
But, come on, it's the same old, same old.
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.