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miércoles, 14 de marzo de 2018

Democrat U.S. senator’s wife fired by West Virginia governor

Many Americans were shocked and dismayed in 2011 when former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) made impassioned pleas before the Senate to save the annual cowboy poetry festival in his home state of Nevada — in the midst of the Great Recession. When lawmakers puzzle over how to balance their budgets without raising taxes, spending on the arts and entertainment are often considered low hanging fruit and are the first to go.

But Democrats are frequently reluctant to cut superfluous government spending in the face of financial strain and would prefer to see cuts to military spending or other vital emergency services. This is precisely what inspired Gayle Manchin, the wife of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), to protest action by the state legislature to eliminate her position as secretary of the Department of Education and the Arts — an ill-advised move that resulted in her premature termination.

Secretary Canned

The decision to fire Manchin came after the GOP-dominated state legislature approved H.B. 4006, a proposal to dissolve the state’s Department of Education and Arts, and forwarded the bill to Republican Gov. Jim Justice for approval.

The state’s House of Delegates passed the measure to eliminate Manchin’s position within the department and scatter the remaining offices to other government agencies by a vote of 60-36. However, while the bill sat on Justice’s desk pending his signature, Manchin decided to speak out against the elimination of her job.

Rather than allow the legislative process to play out, the embattled secretary ignored the advice of the governor’s office and issued a press release denouncing the cost-saving proposal as a politically motivated attack on the state’s cultural heritage. Manchin wrote:

In an obvious rush to score partisan points, the Republican state legislature passed dangerous and destructive legislation to eliminate the Office of Education and the Arts on a mostly party-line vote.

Governor’s Office Responds

Responding to the criticism, the governor’s office released a statement claiming that Manchin approached Justice’s chief of staff on Monday, seeking guidance on how she should respond to her pending termination. She was advised to abstain from commenting since the governor had not yet made a decision on the house bill.

Although Justice was taking the time to consider the facts, that didn’t stop Manchin from applying pressure on the lawmaker who would decide her fate by demanding that he either veto the bill outright or responsibly preserve some of its subordinate agencies. Her press release concluded:

I call on the Governor to veto this reckless and politically motivated legislation that the state legislature passed, or work with me to dissolve this agency, if that’s what he wants to do, in a responsible and compassionate way. It’s obvious that there aren’t any significant financial savings here; we need to get the politics out of this.

Manchin finally determined her future by announcing that she would resign her post if it would make it easier for the governor to veto the bill.

“I want to sit down with the Governor, and if it helps, I’ll resign to remove any political pressure to save all of these important programs for West Virginians,” the arts secretary said.

At this point, Justice’s patience was exhausted, and he quickly answered his overzealous appointee’s request by accepting her resignation. The governor said:

Earlier today, Secretary Manchin asked the Chief of Staff, Mike Hall, about how she should approach this. She was told by the Chief of Staff to do nothing based upon my public comments this morning, and that my decision to veto or sign this bill has not been made. Later in the day, she decided to defy the Chief of Staff’s instructions and issued a press release. In her press release she offered to resign and remove any political cloud.

“A very, very bad position”

Justice argued that the decision to dissolve the Department of Education and Arts was not a political one, and he further asserted that Manchin’s interference had the inadvertent effect of politicizing the issue.

If there weren’t any earlier political cloud, now there surely is one,” the governor added. “She was very critical, made it political, and put me in a very, very bad position.”

Even then, the quarrelsome Democrat refuses to step down and attempted to withdraw her resignation, prompting the governor to fire her.

“She was told that we accepted her resignation, she refused, and we terminated her,” Justice explained.

“Wild and Wasteful West Virginia”

Despite its name, Manchin’s agency has nothing to do with general education for K through 12 and instead focuses solely on “enhancing arts and minds throughout West Virginia” by “preserving the artifacts and documents that authenticate our past.”

Specifically, the department is responsible for a number of contentious programs which cost taxpayers millions is annual revenue. These programs came under fire from many West Virginians after a study by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy titled “Wild and Wasteful West Virginia” found that Manchin’s department was part of a conglomerate of state programs which waste in excess of $330 million a year.

Some of the programs that Manchin argued would be “dangerous and destructive to eliminate” include the American Conservation Film Festival, an event that the policy study determined was a “politically divisive, environmental extremist film festival.

The report was likewise critical of a grant for the Appalachian Queer Film Festival, which is reputed to screen “a number of films many taxpayers would find objectionable.”

More High Costs

West Virginia’s taxpayers are also responsible for underwriting the $4.7 million annual state public radio costs. Since President Richard Nixon demanded that “all funds for public broadcasting be cut” in 1971, state-funded radio has continued to broadcast an unmistakably liberal agenda, leading some citizens to questions why they should pay for a partisan institution.

Some of the more meaningful, revenue building programs within the department, such as museums and state fairs, will be preserved under the Republican bill, albeit under the stewardship of other government agencies. This hasn’t stopped some Democrats from insisting that the sky is falling in West Virginia.

“Where in the world are these programs going to go?” Delegate Larry Rowe (D-Kanawha) demanded to know from the House floor. “It’s premature, it’s unnecessary, it’s not helpful, it’s created a budget upside down mess… We’re killing the arts in West Virginia by eliminating the advocacy of the secretary.”

With Secretary Manchin gone, the governor’s signature is all but guaranteed, and state legislators can begin the crucial task of trimming the fat from a bloated state budget.