Jenkins touts support of Bipartisan Budget Act

BUCKHANNON — The day after voting yes on the Bipartisan Budget Act, Congressman Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., was back in his home state to meet with constituents.

“The bill that we just passed — it kept the government funded and open through March 23,” Jenkins said Saturday. “It also allowed for greater funding for our troops and it also provided funding to battle the opioid crisis and funding for infrastructure and lots of issues important to West Virginians.

“I’m a proud father of a Marine, so the idea of supporting our troops and the men and women in uniform [is important to me],” he said. “We have had more fatalities in military training operations this past year than in actual combat. We have not been supporting our defense and men and women in uniform like we should. We are changing that.

“Passing the new budget caps will be able to allow us to address the critical issues of our nation and give us the ability to do that in a more bipartisan way,” Jenkins added.

Republican Rep. Alex Mooney, who represents Upshur County as part of his District 2 job, was the only West Virginia legislator to vote against the budget, which was also supported by President Donald Trump. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) all voted in favor of the measure. Trump signed it Friday morning.

The act also establishes new budget numbers for the next two years, paving the way for a full funding bill.

“We have new budget numbers that will give us more predictable amounts over the next two years that we can operate in,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins, who opted to run for the U.S. Senate this year instead of seeking re-election as a representative, made a tour through Upshur County Saturday, visiting with Adrian volunteer firefighters and then holding a round table luncheon in Buckhannon.

“We started with the volunteer fire department in Adrian, talking about making sure they are successful in getting federal grants and discussing the opioid crisis,” he said. “We also talked about ways to help our volunteer fire departments continue to do the great work they do.”

Next, Jenkins made his way to C.J. Maggie’s where he met with some community leaders as well as representatives from student council at Buckhannon-Upshur High School and the College Republicans from West Virginia Wesleyan College.

“It was really a discussion about the direction of our country and what we can do to help Upshur County’s economic development and bringing jobs to the region to help keep our young people,” Jenkins said. “It’s exciting to hear four students from the local high school say they want to stay in West Virginia but they know that jobs are important to being able to do that.

“We had a great discussion about the positive affect of the tax cuts from several different examples of how more money in people’s pockets through the tax cuts we just passed can make a big difference in people’s lives.”

Jenkins also had a chance to talk to local community leaders such as Upshur County Commission president Sam Nolte, president of the Upshur County Development Authority president Kathy McMurry and St. Joseph’s Hospital administrator Skip Gjolberg.

Jenkins said Buckhannon is seeing an uptick in economic development that is altering the trend of what is happening in downtown economic development activity elsewhere.

“To have this community anchored with Wesleyan on one end and St. Joseph’s Hospital on the other, there are a lot of positive things happening between them,” he said.

Construction on the new innovation center at the corner of Main and Spring streets will begin this spring with occupancy planned for early 2019.

That center will promote entrepreneurship and community involvement and is just one of the positive items happening in Buckhannon, according to Jenkins.

“My mantra is a good job solves a lot of problems,” he said. “I support President Trump and helping him every step of the way to reduce regulations, cut taxes, fix health care and get our economy and country moving again.

“I serve on the house appropriations committee and we talked about where we should be investing in the infrastructure. Everybody was upbeat on what we are doing to try to invest in infrastructure.”

Infrastructure includes roads, water and sewer as well as broadband and Jenkins said it was important to make sure local residents could do business anywhere in the world from Upshur County.

“I, as a member of the appropriations committee, have the ability to make sure we are investing these federal resources in the programs and projects that we know we want and need in Buckhannon and West Virginia,” he said.

The roundtable discussion also turned to the drug crisis plaguing West Virginia and the country.

“I shared my personal experiencing in helping start Lily’s Place,” he said. “This is the facility that takes care of newborn infants that were drug exposed during pregnancy. It has now been open for three years and has taken care of more 200 precious infants. First Lady Melania Trump visited several months ago in Huntington.

“The drug crisis has impacted so many and the most victimized of all is a precious baby suffering through withdrawal in their first days and weeks of life.”

Jenkins said combatting the drug crisis requires a multi-faceted approach.

“We are investing in treatment and recovery but also supporting strong law enforcement to get the drug users and pushers our of our community,” he said.

Although teachers and service personnel across the state are worried about PEIA and pay raises, Jenkins said that is a state issue and not set by the federal government.

“I understand and feel their frustration because we know their teacher pay rates and those of service personnel don’t match up,” he said.

West Virginia is ranked 48th in the nation for teacher salaries.

Congress did pass the Every Student Succeeds Act last year, something Jenkins feels will benefit local school districts.

“This actually allows more flexibility at the local level and gets the heavy hand of government out of dictating the policies,” he said. “I am a believer that we need to empower local school officials to have more flexibility on setting up school curriculum and programs and not having those driven from the federal level.”

On Thursday, the Upshur County Commission voted to sue opioid manufacturers to recoup costs from the epidemic in Upshur County.

The cost of the drug epidemic in the Mountain State was also discussion in the roundtable along with economic development.

Nolte said, “We talked about the opioid issue as a local problem and a state problem and we also discussed how diversifying our economy is essential for our state if we are going to remain competitive,” he said. “We had a nice group of younger kids there too who got to ask questions and listen to what was going on in the state.”

One of those local students was Buckhannon-Upshur High School student body president and senior Desirae Lindow.

This was the second opportunity this school year, Lindow said she and some of her peers were able to interact with a state representative. In the fall, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., visited B-UHS.

Saturday’s round table discussion was a more intimate setting that allowed conversation.

“I think having a congressman sit down with us to talk about issues that pertain to not only the youth but the county as a whole was beneficial,” she said.

Those issues included the drug epidemic as previously discussed, the legalization of recreational marijuana and how that can affect the future and looking at education.

“We are very glad we had this experience,” she said.

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