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Soaring inflation, supply chain issues become project ‘speed bumps’ statewide

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Enormous amounts of government relief money directed to public and private projects has created a labor shortage for contractors. Additionally, soaring material prices have created very tough times for owners, suppliers and contractors.

Mike Clowser

West Virginia Association of Contractors President Mike Clowser said a recent survey shows the industry is booming and there really no end in sight for the near future.

“Most all of our members are looking for people and looking for qualified people,” Clowser said. “We think this is going to be an exciting time for construction i the next five to seven years in West Virginia.”

Since April of 2020, inflation has pushed the cost of construction materials to historic high levels in historically short periods of time. According to Clowser, steel prices have more than doubled, lumber prices have increased 61% and copper or brass components are up more than 60% over that period.

“We’ve had spike increases in steel over time and we’ve had diesel fuel spikes over the years, but we have never seen something like this sustained at the level it is,” Clowser said.

Rapid increases have required changes to contract terms, in some cases after the bidding process and before work has started. Additionally, supply chain problems have caused completion delays for everything from striping highways, home plumbing projects and multi-million dollar utility infrastructure projects.

“We have had to not only raise the cost on every project that has gone out to bid, we’ve also had to extend the timeframe to get material,” Clowser said.

He said prices are not only influenced by supply and demand. Some businesses are forced to increase prices in other operations to remain viable.

“If you bid a project two years ago and you’re still in the project and all of a sudden prices went up 100% an owner may hold the construction company to the contract prices,” Clowser said. “We’ve had a number of contractors that have had to weather this storm.”

Clowser said the situation eased slightly when the governor approved supplemental funding for public agencies to continue projects as planned. Meanwhile, many other projects are being scaled down or even delayed.

“That has allowed public owners to get additional funding to complete the project as planned,” Clowser said. “Certainly other agencies are looking at that and will have to look at that.”

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US Senate approves domestic policy package in party-line vote

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After months of discussions among U.S. Senate Democrats about getting a legislative package through the chamber, senators on Sunday passed a measure addressing Democratic policy goals, including health care, climate change and energy.

The chamber approved the Inflation Reduction Act in a 51-50 vote split along party lines; Vice President Kamala Harris delivered the tie-breaking vote.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — who surprised Democrats and Republicans when he announced the related compromise with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — voted for the bill. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined Republican colleagues in opposing the measure.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (File)

The legislation ended a saga in the Senate to get all Democrats to support a domestic policy package. Manchin, a moderate in his party, voiced opposition in December to a broader $1.8 trillion measure, and he initially sank hopes in July about passing a plan after sharing inflation-related concerns. Manchin later told reporters  he “never walked away” from trying to reach an agreement with Schumer on a legislative package.

“For years, I have worked across the aisle to determine the most effective way to increase domestic energy production, lower energy and healthcare costs, and pay down our national debt without raising costs for working Americans. The Inflation Reduction Act is the product of that work and I am proud the Senate passed this bill that will lower the inflation taxes that have been so hurtful for West Virginian and American families,” Manchin said following the vote.

The measure includes provisions giving Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug prices while placing a $2,000-limit on annual out-of-pocket costs. The price of insulin for Medicare patients would be limited to $35. The Senate failed to approve an amendment capping the cost with private insurers; Capito and 42 other Republicans opposed the proposed amendment. The Senate parliamentarian ruled Saturday against including language placing penalties on companies that increase drug prices at a pace exceeding inflation.

The measure would extend subsidies for the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance plans for three years. Federal officials estimate around 23,000 West Virginians would face higher premiums if Congress does not act before the end of the year.

Funding would be allocated for consumer energy rebates, investments in greenhouse gas reduction, and clean energy technology development. Coal and natural gas facilities would receive loan guarantees to improve infrastructure and increase site efficiency, and clean energy companies would be eligible for tax credits to develop sites in areas impacted by the coal’s decline. The legislation includes a tax credit for creating a hydrogen energy hub; Manchin and Capito have pushed for the development of such a site in West Virginia.

As part of the package agreement, Manchin and congressional leaders agreed to consider changes to the permitting process when the Senate resumes work in September. The West Virginia Democrat has touted its inclusion of completing the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile system capable of transporting natural gas from West Virginia to southern Virginia once finished.

The package raises revenue through a 15% corporate minimum tax, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and enforcing existing tax law. Democrats have contended the measure would not impact taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 annually. Manchin and Schumer eliminated language closing a tax loophole on hedge fund managers to secure the support of centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Sinema and six other Democrats joined Republicans on Sunday in supporting an amendment eliminating some businesses from the corporate minimum tax.

Estimates regarding the package note $300 billion would go toward deficit reduction.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. (File)

The package establishes permanent funding for the black lung disability trust fund; Congress failed to extend funding before it expired last year. The excise tax on underground coal would be $1.10 a ton, and the tax on surface coal would increase to 55 cents per ton.

Senators considered multiple amendments during a 15-hour voting period that began late Saturday evening. Legislators failed to advance most proposals given the chamber’s 50-50 split. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. — who caucuses with Senate Democrats — proposed multiple amendments, including language expanding Medicare coverage and requirements on how the program covers prescription drug costs. Capito introduced two amendments to remove $45 million addressing greenhouse gas emissions and enact permitting changes; the Senate did not approve either proposal.

After Sunday’s vote, Capito said the package would “raise taxes on working families, kill West Virginia’s coal industry, and empower the IRS to spend more time snooping around Main Street.”

“At a time of record inflation, it’s inexplicable for them to repeat the massive over-taxing, over-spending, and over-regulating mistakes already driving us into a recession,” she said. “Throughout the Senate Democrats’ short-circuited process for ramming through this reckless legislation, I have spent a lot of time and energy exposing the harmful provisions in this partisan bill, while also offering bipartisan solutions. Unfortunately, however, families, employers, and workers in West Virginia already know they will soon bear the burden of this untimely, avoidable mistake.”

Economists estimate the measure will have a minimal effect on inflation; the related rate reached 9.1% in June.

The House of Representatives will return from its August recess on Friday to consider the Inflation Reduction Act. President Joe Biden on Sunday urged the Democrat-controlled chamber to pass the package.

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New law requires WV students, staff to receive training on eating disorder prevention

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When West Virginia students and staff return to school this fall, they will be required to undergo training about the effects of self harm and eating disorders.

The program is aimed at identifying warning signs, increasing prevention and providing treatment options.

Drew McClanahan

Drew McClanahan, director of Government Relations with the state Department of Education, told MetroNews the training is a new requirement under a state law approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jim Justice earlier this year.

“It’ll allow any staff member throughout the school to be able to, at first, identify warning signs of eating disorders and self harm and to also know how to report that moving forward,” McClanahan said.

H.B. 4074 is referred to as “Meghan’s Law,” named after the daughter of Delegate Wayne Clark (R-Jefferson). Meghan Clark, one of his 15 year old twin daughters, developed an eating disorder last year after her cheerleading coach criticized her weight. She only weighed 126 pounds at the time.

Meghan dropped down to 90 pounds when she was admitted to the Center of Discovery, an eating disorder treatment program. She eventually got her weight back up to around 119 pounds, her father previously told MetroNews.

Clark said his daughter went through excessive exercise, restricting foods, cutting herself with razors and when she felt like she wasn’t losing any weight, she started to purge by hiding food at the dinner table.

Stephanie Hayes

Under the new law, staff at all 55 county school systems would be trained every three years.

Students in grades 5-12 will be provided with general information and resources regarding eating disorders and self harm.

“We don’t want to focus only on what will happen. We really want to emphasize prevention and having students be able to identify a supportive, caring adult that they can turn to,” said Stephanie Hayes, coordinator of the Office of Student Support and Well-being.

Teachers won’t be the only staff members to receive the training. It will also include those who lead sports teams and extracurricular activities.

“A coach, custodian, secretary or a teacher can have a profound impact on any student’s life,” McClanahan said. “It’s imperative and can certainly change the life of a student.”

WVDE is working with a group of experts to craft the training including representatives from the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Behavioral Health, West Virginia University Medicine Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, WVU Disordered Eating Center of Charleston, Westberg Health Systems and Mission West Virginia.

The department will be providing information to health and physical education teachers as well as school principals, so they can discuss the best way to implement the training throughout schools in the coming weeks.

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Challenges and success stories of American Rescue Plan spending shared by municipal leaders

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — During meetings of the West Virginia Municipal League, officials were able to share challenges and success stories of American Rescue Plan spending.

The American Rescue Plan was passed into law in March of 2021 and sent $4 billion to West Virginia over the next two years. Of that sum, cities and counties shared more than $2 billion.

Chris Tatum

West Virginia Municipal League President and Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum said the disbursement of the first tranche of relief money demonstrates the law is filling the intended purpose.

“Rescue plan funding has been a super important one to keep cities whole but also to advance those projects that might have not been able to have been done otherwise,” Tatum said.

Barboursville received about $1.4 million and used a portion for the completion of an important sewer project. The 12-acre lagoon system is being rerouted to the Pea Ridge Public Service Department. When complete the area will be repurposed for economic development.

Wheeling received a total of $28.5 million, or about equal to an entire annual budget. Mayor Glenn Elliott said the challenge has been prioritizing requests from community organizations, needs within city departments and infrastructure projects. Elliot explained one-third of the first tranche has been allocated.

“The bill does specify water and sewer infrastructure projects as eligible and we have a lot of needs in that regard like most cities across the state,” Elliott said. “So, we’re looking at it from across the board, we’ve probably allocated one-third of our money so far, but we really have a lot left being cued up for discussion.”

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott

Elliott said the one-time influx of cash has provided opportunities to complete improvements and upgrades much faster outside the normal budget process. City leaders are evaluating requests and projects to maximize the value of every relief dollar.

“Our goal is to make that money multiply so we’re making investments that are going to come back in years to come, not just fixing things that are going to have a one time impact,” Elliott said. ” So that’s what we’re trying to focus on but it’s harder to do than you might think.”

Parkersburg received about $22.4 million and Mayor Tom Joyce was able to quickly initiate a long needed public utility project and invest a substantial amount of the first installment.

Mayor Tom Joyce

“We had a water project that was engineered and ready to go, so we invested the first tranche of $11 million, about $8 million of that went to water and sewer infrastructure.”

Joyce said the money presents opportunities to address quality of life issues that will benefit neighborhoods for many years to come. City leaders are actively accepting public comment on projects.

“We’re working right now through some public comment on doing some exciting things in the next round,” Joyce said. “Hopefully we’ll be announcing soon a major rehabilitation to our large baseball field in Parkersburg City Park- Bennett Stump Field.”

The West Virginia Municipal League’s annual meeting wrapped up Friday in Morgantown.

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19 starters return for Independence after a run to the Super Six in 2021

COAL CITY, W.Va. — The roles have changed for the Independence Patriots and that is a direct result of what John Lilly’s team accomplished in 2021. The crew from Coal City completed a perfect regular season, and advanced to the Super Six before falling to Fairmont Senior.

“Last year we were hunting. This year we are being hunted. I think that is the next test for this football team on how we handle success.” said Lilly. “We want to be consistent over a long period of time and be like Fairmont and Bluefield and those teams.”

“It was pretty special knowing that our school, our community, our faculty and staff had our backs after that,” said Independence senior lineman Logan Isom. “It was a special time.”

Nineteen starters return for the Patriots but Kennedy Award winner Atticus Goodson has moved on to college baseball.

“We’ve got to replace five-thousand yards of offense. A lot of people think that is going to be an easy task but that is still going to be a tall load to come up with that much yardage,” Lilly said.

Although Goodson and last year’s starting quarterback Logan Phalin have graduated, well-established veterans will be trading spots on offense. Trey Bowers scored a dozen touchdowns as a rusher and receiver last fall. He is the new starting quarterback.

“He is a dual-threat quarterback,” said Independence senior tight end Braxton McKinney. “He can do a lot of things. He can throw the ball. He can run, tuck it and get out too.”

Judah Price rushed for 834 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021. He is now the top option in the backfield.

“We’ve got Judah Price in the backfield so we feel really solid with our backfield,” Lilly said.

The Patriots’ leading receiver Cyrus Goodson returns to lead a younger group of wideouts.

“We’ve got Cyrus on the right side. We’ve got a kid called [Colten] Caron and he was a state champion wrestler last year in the 170-pound class. He is about 6-foot-4, and 175 [pounds]. We’ve got Chandler Johnson. He is about 6-foot-4 and about 210. We’ll play Tyler Linkswiler in the slot,” Lilly said.

First team all-state selection Logan Isom leads a line with returning starters at almost every position.

“Logan is an offensive lineman that we can lean on a little bit with what we do because we rely on him to go a little more one-on-one. Everybody else kind of zone blocks off of him,” Lilly said.

Every team enters a season with the goal of advancing further than the previous year. For the Patriots, that step would result in the big trophy coming back to Raleigh County.

“A hundred percent. We’re there to win it now. We got there last year and fell short. We are going to get it now,” McKinney said.

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MetroNews Classics: Webster County vs Parkersburg Catholic (2019) & North Marion vs Capital (1999)

Video: Webster County vs Parkersburg Catholic (2019 Class A State Basketball Championship)

Webster County had one goal in mind leading into the state final, finish off a magical and undefeated season.

The only challenge that was left was the Parkersburg Catholic Crusaders.

The Highlanders were led all season by seniors Dorian Groggs, who averaged 20 points per game, and Tyler Gray, who averaged 16 points per game. Those two went on to become Class A all-state selections that season.

Webster County’s 47-40 victory over Parkersburg Catholic capped an undefeated season going 28-0, and it allowed the Highlanders to become the first Class A to finish the season undefeated since the 1987 Paden City team.

Audio: North Marion vs Capital (1999 Class AAA State Basketball Championship)

A game that will live on in the North Marion community forever.

As time was slowly ticking away, the Huskies needed a basket. Seth Barker hit a shot from a pass from his brother, Josh, that gave North Marion its first state basketball title.

That basket by Seth was the points he scored in the entire state tournament.

North Marion squeezed past Capital, 49-48.

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CRW leader says federal grant to expand air service is ‘great opportunity’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia International Yeager Airport Director and CEO Nick Keller says the facility has an opportunity ahead of it following it being awarded a federal grant to attract and maintain airfare.

The airport (CRW) was awarded a grant from the Department of Transportation Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP) in a total of $600,000 last week. Keller said it will support a new service to Dallas Forth Worth International Airport (DFW) or Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

He told MetroNews it fits the bill of one of his administration’s strategic goals of increasing air service options. Keller said the addition to either airport would add over 20,000 departure seats to the CRW market, resulting in lowering airfares.

Nick Keller

“The potential to get additional service that would be westbound and provide connections through Houston or Dallas is a huge opportunity for us,” Keller said.

Keller said it should be noted that the grant does not guarantee that CRW will get either service because an airline has to commit. However, Keller said that American Airlines, which would run the DFW service, provided a letter of support for the grant application. The IAH service would come from United Airlines.

The grant can be used for a revenue guarantee for the airlines, start-up costs, recruitment costs, and marketing to initiate and support the service.

“That is kind of like an insurance policy for the airline. It reduces their risk when they have a new service in case the service is not viable and not successful,” Keller said of the minimum revenue guarantee.

Keller said a marketing campaign would be launched and it may take one to two years for a new service ‘to be well known.’ He added there has always been interest in service to Texas, saying Houston and Dallas are both in the Top 10 markets for CRW passengers currently.

He said the direct service would only generate new traffic and make it more convenient for current flyers, cutting out an extra stop. He said those that currently fly out west often times fly to Charlotte or Atlanta first.

CRW lost its Dallas flight in 2015 due to the slope failure and lost the Houston service in 2019.

Keller said he hopes to attract both services, one with the grant and the other with sources of funding from a newly formed airservice alliance group.

“We have the money lined up, we have the grant funding, which is a huge step. Now we have to negotiate with the airlines and they have to be able to add the capacity into their network,” Keller said of the time it may take to actually have a new service running.

CRW was one of 25 grant proposals to be selected. In total, the 25 applications selected were from 20 states and awarded nearly $17 million in federal grant assistance.

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Discussion of tax reduction plans continue as special session remains in time out

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Whether or not state leaders can come to an agreement on a tax cut plan remains to be seen but some of them have been talking about the possible melding of the House and Senate plans in the week plus since the legislature broke off their special session.

The 134-member legislature left Charleston on July 29 after a week-long special session. Gov. Jim Justice called them there with a single item on the agenda. His proposal was to reduce the state’s personal income tax by an average of 10% over all five wage classifications.

The House of Delegates agreed with Justice but the Republican super majority in the Senate didn’t. Instead senators passed a resolution spelling out their own tax plan which focuses on reducing property-based taxes following the vote on Amendment 2 in November.

Hybrid Plan

House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, said there’s momentum in the House for what he calls a “hybrid plan.”

Eric Householder

The plan would include the governor’s plan plus cutting some, not all, of the personal income tax categories along with business inventory taxes and taxes on things like furniture, fixtures and computer equipment, Householder said.

“That’s about a $262 million to a $265 million cost,” Householder said. “You add that to the House’s plan of roughly $300 million and now you’re talking about a $565 million tax cut.”

Householder said the hybrid plan has to start with the House-passed governor’s plan.

“I think many of us have said we can do both. I think there’s a path forward,” he said.

Householder said executing the plan would be contingent on Amendment 2 passing. That would change the state Constitution to allow the legislature to consider elimination personal property taxes and the Business and Inventory Tax.

The exact wording of Amendment 2 on the upcoming ballot:

Senate President Craig Blair

“To amend the State Constitution by providing the Legislature with authority to exempt tangible machinery and equipment personal property directly used in business activity and tangible inventory personal property directly used in business activity and personal property tax on motor vehicles from ad valorem property taxation by general law.”

Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said doing the governor’s plan would make it “totally unaffordable” to do the personal property tax plan that would be available with the passage of Amendment 2.

“When you vote for something it comes with expectations. We in the Senate intend to fill those obligations,” Blair said.

Senate plan

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, said last week he also believes there could be room for a compromise but there remains a significant unanswered question.

Eric Tarr

“The point of contention is– do you do one before the other or do you do both at the same time? That’s what we are trying to figure out,” Tarr said.

Tarr said the reason the legislature is able to do tax cuts at all is because lawmakers, working with the governor, have been able to hold a flat budget for the past four years. He said the money saved in spending in the base budget compared to increasing revenue is more than $590 million. He said that money can now be used in part to backfill what the state’s 55 counties would lose when the personal property taxes are eliminated.

Tarr said the backfill will take about $558 million. He said that would leave $32 million which is far less than the $250 million that the governor’s income tax plan would cost.

Tarr said the Senate plan includes a triggering mechanism that begins to phase down the personal income tax as sales tax revenues increase.

Tax relief now

Gov. Justice has repeatedly said his plan provides for tax relief now.

Jim Justice

“It will drive job growth, population growth, and prosperity in West Virginia. But the most important thing to do is get started right away,” Justice said on July 20 when he announced the special session. “In the past year, gas prices have gotten out of control and inflation is through the roof. West Virginians need help right now.”

Tarr said the Senate’s plan has immediate tax relief that comes from the current budget revenue surplus money.

The relief would include a refund of personal property taxes paid on vehicles last year costing $140 million. Another $26 million would be used to increase the monthly of some of the oldest and longest working state worker retirees from $750 a month to $1,000 a month. There would also be a one time payment for that same group of a one time $1,500 payment.

Next step

The special session won’t resume until Blair and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, call their members back to the capitol.

Tarr said all involved are willing to talk about the best plans moving forward because they all see opportunity but he said the state can’t settle for a quick minimal tax cut when something more meaningful is possible.

“What we don’t want to do is take money that blocks spending of money that grows West Virginia so there’s more money to have in the future,” Tarr said.

Householder said the Republican-controlled legislature has been talking about tax relief since 2015. He said it’s a process and he chooses to be optimistic.

“There’s always room for negotiations and compromise and I hope cooler heads prevail. If not–we won’t see any tax reform,” Householder said.

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West Virginians continue to help Kentucky flood victims

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For the last week, WVRC Media and PR Plus Events have been cash and supplies for Backpacks for Disaster to help the flood ravaged residents of eastern Kentucky.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are scheduled to visit Kentucky Monday.

Captain Gary Amburgey with the Sandlick Volunteer Fire Department said some residents are slowly returning to their homes to salvage what they can and begin the long process of making their property habitable again.

“There are a lot of places with five, six, seven, eight inches of mud lined up everything,” Amburgey said. “There are a lot of places that will never come back to normal.”

Kentucky State Police trooper Matt Gayheart said their work has not slowed but the mission has evolved since flooding began. In many cases police are working with residents to help protect homes and businesses from theft.

“As of now we’re making sure supplies are being handed out where they need to be going and our priority right now is security patrols,” Gayheart said.

In addition to Backpacks for Disasters, relief supplies and organizations are flowing to multiple locations. Volunteers, residents and emergency workers are sorting the supplies for distribution throughout the area.

“We’re still going through and searching areas that were heavily hit by the flood and making sure people there have what they need to sustain themselves,” Gayheart said.

Some structure fires have been reported as electricity is restored and other areas still are without water and power. Exact numbers were not available at press time, but a large number of people are still using emergency shelters established when flash floods hit.

“The ones that are able to get back in are trying to recover what property they can salvage and seeing what’s damaged and starting to make repairs,” Gayheart said.

Emergency services suffered losses as well. Numerous police vehicles, equipment and facilities were destroyed or damaged in the initial surge of flood waters. According to Amburgey, The Letcher Fire Department lost their entire fleet including tankers, engines, equipment and their building. The fire department is operating out of a nearby elementary school.

Amburgey and Gayheart said drinking water, food, cleaning supplies and equipment and comfort items for adults and children in shelters are needed.

“We appreciate all West Virginia has done,” Amburgey said. “They stepped up really good and helped out our local police departments with donations cars and fire apparatuses, we really appreciate you very much.”

Backpack for Disaster donations can be left at the Greer Building at 1251 Earl Core Road or PR Plus Events at 150 Clay Street in Morgantown. Residents with donations they would to be picked up can call 304-288-4244.

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US Senate begins debate on domestic policy package; Manchin supports motion, Capito opposes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Three weeks since the idea of the U.S. Senate approving a sweeping domestic policy plan seemed improbable, the chamber voted along party lines Saturday to move forward with a package addressing health care costs, energy and deficit reduction.

The vote started what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described as “the culmination of one of the most productive stretches in recent Senate memory” that included lawmakers approving bipartisan legislation addressing gun violence, computer chip production and benefits for military veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

The chamber voted 51-50 to begin debate, with Vice President Kamala Harris delivering a tie-breaking vote. Democrats — including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin — united in support of the motion to proceed as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Republican colleagues opposed the action.

The Inflation Reduction Act is the byproduct of discussions between Schumer and Manchin following the West Virginia Democrats’ rejection of the larger Build Back Better framework in December. Schumer and Manchin revised the proposal this week to ensure Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — a centrist Democrat — would vote for advancing the bill.

The legislation would grant Medicare the authority to negotiate prescription drug prices and limit patients’ annual out-of-pocket costs to $2,000. A provision installing penalties for companies raising prices on drugs was removed following a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian. The measure additionally allocates funding for consumer energy rebates and tax credits, as well as investments related to clean energy development and greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

The bill also would extend subsidies for health insurance plans offered through the federal marketplace through 2025. The subsidies will expire at the end of the calendar year if Congress does not act; around 23,000 West Virginians would face higher premiums as a result.

The bill establishes a 15% minimum corporate tax on companies with profits of more than $1 billion, which senators believe will result in $313 billion in revenue over 10 years. Additional revenue would come from prescription drug negotiations and the enforcement of existing tax codes. Senators removed ending the carried interest loophole to gain Sinema’s vote. Manchin has further touted the plan’s $300 billion allocation for deficit reduction.

The bill additionally includes a fee on oil and natural gas companies regarding excessive methane emissions. It will take effect in 2024.

The Inflation Reduction Action has a provision establishing a permanent funding source for the black lung disability fund. The excise tax on coal mined underground would increase to $1.10 a ton, and the tax on surface coal would go to 55 cents per ton.

“We have made promises to our miners that we’ll protect their health insurance, that we’ll protect their pensions, and that we’ll have a fully-funded black lung benefit program to help the many miners — about one in five in central Appalachia — whose day in and day out job inhaling coal dust and silica dust exposes them to a horrible pulmonary disease,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said on the Senate floor.

Congress failed to renew benefits for these miners before the end of last year. Senators have introduced separate legislation to support the fund for 10 years.

“This will provide permanent, sufficient funding to maintain the solvency of the fund,” Kaine added. “They can be assured that the program will be there for them should they get black lung disease.”

The United Mine Workers of America praised Manchin and Schumer for introducing the Inflation Reduction Act. President Cecil Roberts said the package will “give victims of this insidious disease, their families and their survivors some peace of mind” in accessing benefits.

Multiple state coal leaders — including West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton — have criticized the legislation, arguing in an open letter the measure would “quickly diminish our coal producing operations and all but obviate any need to innovate coal assets.” Manchin sent Hamilton a letter Thursday, telling Hamilton that he “may have been misled” about the bill, noting the measure’s investments in infrastructure improvements and tax credits for attracting new manufacturers to areas affected by coal’s downturn.

Some Republicans have cited Manchin in their arguments against the package, referencing Hamilton’s concerns and Manchin’s opposition to the Build Back Better plan, which would have dedicated $1.8 trillion toward multiple domestic programs. West Virginia’s senior senator had raised concerns last month about backing a bill with climate change spending and tax increases following the release of June inflation data.

“The senator from West Virginia has engaged in a gigantic, Olympic-worthy flip-flop,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn said.

“No amount of spin or fast-talking can conceal the damage this will inflict on the American people. Sen. Manchin likes to say, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.’ But for the life of me, I don’t know how our Democratic colleagues are going to explain this one in November.”

There are also disagreements regarding the bill’s effects on inflation. The Penn Wharton Business Model estimates inflation would slightly increase before a decrease in 2024, but the change would be insignificant. More than 120 economists, however, sent a letter to congressional leaders this week contending the legislation would lower costs and establish the foundation for economic growth.

Democratic senators have vowed to oppose amendments to the bill to move the bill through the chamber. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has urged support for amendments related to further limits on prescription drug costs and other health care issues.

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