Lack of revenue from coal is badly hurting some of the poorest counties in America, and Republicans are too busy trying to strip mine the last of the coal out of the Appalachians rather than allowing aid packages to pass Congress.
Mine closings, layoffs, and bankruptcies have swept the region. In August, Alpha Natural Resources of Bristol, Va., filed for Chapter 11 protection, following Patriot Coal of Scott Depot, W.Va., which entered its second bankruptcy in May. In eastern Kentucky, coal jobs fell to 7,153 at the end of 2014, from 14,412 in 2008, according to a state report. Production there has fallen to 37 million tons from 91 million.
The Boone County school district received about $5 million less in coal-related tax revenue for this school year than last year, or about 10 percent of its budget, says Deputy Superintendent Jeff Huffman. Whitesburg, Ky., has lost almost half its business tax revenue, says Mayor James Craft. In late August and early September, a gun store, a framing shop, and a uniform supplier closed.
The West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy in Charleston, a liberal nonprofit, has long advocated for the creation of a state trust fund for the days when coal revenue would dwindle. “If you don’t put that money away into a permanent trust fund, then not only will the jobs and wages disappear, but so will the state and local revenue,” says Ted Boettner, the organization’s executive director. “That’s what’s happening now.”
But of course, that costs money and King Coal gets everything it wants from the state legislatures it has bought.
The Obama administration has proposed a package of grants, tax breaks, and money transfers worth several billion dollars in its 2016 budget to help ailing coal communities in Appalachia. The White House offer has met resistance in Congress, with Kentucky Republicans Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Hal Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, calling for a rollback of environmental rules along with direct federal assistance. “Any plan from the White House aimed at improving the quality of life for the people of coal country is not serious or credible without a legitimate proposal to revisit these wrongheaded, job-killing regulations,” says Rogers’s spokeswoman, Danielle Smoot.
Hal Rogers should be ashamed of himself. He's arguably the most powerful Republican in the House as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, representing some of the poorest counties in the country. And he's holding them hostage for King Coal.
Don't think these towns haven't noticed.
Almost a dozen Appalachian towns and counties have passed resolutions urging Republicans in Congress to support the White House plan. “I want to mine coal, but we’ve got to look at other ways to put people to work, so they can provide for their families,” says Dan Mosley, the judge-executive of Harlan County, Ky., a Democrat. His Republican counterparts are also in favor. “If you’ve ever been really hungry in your life, you’d eat at any restaurant you can find,” says Republican Albey Brock, the top official of Bell County, Ky. “The federal government has caused our problems, and they’re going to have to help us solve it.”
Not while the GOP is in power. You poor bastards won't get an extra dime to help you and you keep voting for the Republicans who will make sure you never do.