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Little support for West Virginia contribution to border wall

Measure to be introduced in House of Delegates

PARKERSBURG — There isn’t much interest among Mid-Ohio Valley legislators in a proposed bill to contribute $10 million of West Virginia’s $186 million budget surplus to President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I support President Trump’s border wall agenda,” said Delegate Ray Hollen, R-Wirt. “But with that, I cannot support giving $10 million of West Virginia’s taxpayer money toward that, when we have our (own) obligations to take care of.”

With roads in “deplorable conditions,” long-term funding solutions needed for the Public Employees Insurance Agency, the ongoing drug epidemic and a continuing need to improve employee pay scales, Hollen said the state can’t afford to send the money elsewhere.

The bill is sponsored by Delegates Carl “Robbie” Martin, R-Upshur; Patrick Martin, R-Lewis; and Caleb Hanna, R-Webster. Robbie and Patrick Martin are brothers.

The first stop for the bill would probably be the Finance Committee, said Delegate Vernon Criss, R-Wood and vice chairman of the committee.

“It’ll be up to the chairman if he’ll take it up or not,” said Criss, declining to offer an opinion on the bill.

Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, said he doesn’t think the bill will go any further than that.

“It’ll never see the light of day,” he said.

Kelly said he doesn’t oppose the wall but won’t support diverting state funds for its construction.

“The Legislature is not going to send $10 million of West Virginia taxpayer money to the federal government for a project in Arizona … or Texas or California or New Mexico,” he said.

Assistant Minority Whip Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel, said there may be constitutional questions about whether the money could even be given to the federal government.

“I’m absolutely opposed to that,” he said. “We have a lot of needs in this state we can spend $10 million on rather than using it to build a wall.”

Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood, doesn’t foresee there being enough support to advance the bill, which wouldn’t go very far in making the $5.7 billion wall — the point of contention in the ongoing partial government shutdown — a reality.

“I’m for the wall, but $10 million is about two-tenths of a percent of what they need,” he said.

His son, state Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, said he doesn’t anticipate much, if any, interest in the Senate, but he said the introduction by the delegates conveys a message of support for building the wall and doing it as soon as possible.

“That bill’s never going to go anywhere, but I definitely appreciate the spirit of the bill,” he said.

That appreciation likely wouldn’t translate into a vote, however.

“We have our own budget problems,” Sen. Azinger said.

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