Cut out Courtesy Patrol
Once again, West Virginia legislators find themselves digging around the state budget, trying to find money for new initiatives.
You know me. I try to pitch in and do my part, especially when government needs my help. Clearly, it does this year.
So, I’d like to resolve a significant amount of lawmakers’ fiscal woes and, in the process, do something nice for state employees.
Gov. Jim Justice has proposed all state employees receive 1 percent pay raises next year, with another 4 percent spread out over the ensuring four years.
Not enough, say some public school teachers.
So, the House of Delegates has approved a plan to give out 2 percent raises this year. Pointing out each 1 percent raise for state employees costs about $23 million a year, the governor says the money just can’t be found in the budget.
Which is where I come in, with a way to cover nearly 22 percent of the amount needed for the additional 1 percent raise, not just now but forever.
It’s simple: Kill the Courtesy Patrol.
It’s a program operated by the Citizens’ Conservation Corps of West Virginia, headquartered in Beckley, and funded by state government. The CCC says its mission is to “provide job training and opportunities to underprivileged individuals.”
It certainly has provided an opportunity to the organization’s CEO, Robert Martin. According to the Form 990 the CCC filed with the Internal Revenue Service for 2015, the most recent for which the information was available, Martin was paid $360,414 during that year. His chief operating officer, Jennifer Douglas, pulled in $176,651.
Now, the CCC does a variety of things, according to its website (wvccc.com). But the Courtesy Patrol is by far its biggest — and most lucrative — endeavor.
Courtesy Patrol personnel in pickup trucks drive a few major highways in West Virginia, on the lookout for motorists in distress. They can provide limited assistance.
In this age of cellphones, one wonders why the Courtesy Patrol is needed. Many legislators have asked that question for years, but their attempts to end program have been frustrated, time after time.
Last spring, the House of Delegates passed a bill to eliminate the Courtesy Patrol, by a vote of 58-41. The measure died in the state Senate.
Somehow, the issue became a partisan one. Of the 58 delegates voting to end the Courtesy Patrol, 56 were Republicans. Just two Democrats went along. The 41 nays were comprised of 33 Democrats and eight Republicans.
Here’s the thing about the Courtesy Patrol: It has racked in tons of profit, thanks to state funding, for years. The 2015 Form 990 showed it cost the CCC $2,190,823 to operate the Courtesy Patrol that year. Revenue for the program was $3,850,638.
In just one year, then, the CCC made a $1,659,815 profit — thanks to West Virginia taxpayers — on the Courtesy Patrol.
Similar margins have persisted for years, yet the state continues to pump big bucks into the CCC. Justice’s proposed budget for the year includes $5 million for the Courtesy Patrol.
Is this trip really necessary at a time when there are plenty of alternatives for emergency road service and legislators are scrambling for money?
Why not zero-out the Courtesy Patrol appropriation and use the money to give public employees a raise? Five million bucks, incidentally, would be enough to give the average teacher around $100 more a year.
So, educators, which is more important? A C-note more in your pockets or the assurance that if your car breaks down on I-79, someone will arrive to help shortly after you’ve dialed AAA on your cellphone?
House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, did not file for re-election this year. That may not mean we’ve seen the last of him.
Two West Virginia Supreme Court justices, Menis Ketchum and Margaret Workman, are up for re-election in 2020. Armstead is considering a run for the state’s highest court that year.
Mike Myer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.