The Exponent Telegram
Posted: Sunday, October 12, 2014 12:05 pm
CLARKSBURG — U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., says he wants to continue working to reverse the direction the country is headed under President Obama’s overreaching policies.
McKinley, who is running for a third term representing the 1st Congressional District, said he is on a mission to restore citizens’ belief in the America Dream.
“We’ve got to change the direction this country is going in,” McKinley told The Exponent Telegram. “When people start having confidence again in this country, that’s going to be the vibrancy we’re looking for.”
The congressman faces a challenge from state Auditor Glen Gainer in the Nov. 4 general election.
Q: What is your position on the Environmental Protection Agency’s increased regulations?
A: McKinley said he remains steadfastly opposed to the EPA’s stringent regulations, which he contends will harm the state’s coal industry and nation’s economy.
“What I’m doing is pushing back,” McKinley said. “I’m trying to get to the real root cause. I really want to get to the core, because up until six years ago, these regulations were out there, but they (coal companies) were able to deal with them.
“But the last six years, they’ve exponentially taken off in things that are penalizing,” he added. “Is this issue of climate change that much of a religion to this administration that they’re ignoring some of the science and issues?”
McKinley said he recently put these questions to proponents of the regulations at a World Energy Conference he attended.
“What’s the real core thing they’re trying to accomplish?” McKinley posed. “Is it to destroy the coal industry? Is it to just take it from 40 percent (of the nation’s energy supply) to 20 percent? What are they trying to do?”
McKinley likened a three-microgram reduction in emissions from coal-burning power plants to filling the Empire State Building with Ping-Pong balls and removing one.
While such a decrease wouldn’t likely improve air quality, it would cost $20 billion to $30 billion a year for power plants to comply with the regulation, he said.
“At the end of the day, other countries are going to be burning coal and a lot more than we are,” he said. “Therefore, we’re not going to improve the global environment. I don’t think we should risk our economy when no one else is listening to us.”
Q: What do you believe the nation’s energy policy should include? How would you, as a congressman, work to move in that direction?
A: McKinley said he has co-sponsored legislation calling for a scientific panel to draft a national energy policy.
“It should be a national policy, not an administratively driven energy policy, so that it takes into consideration not just his or her ideology, but rather the country, the consumers and the users across the country,” McKinley said.
“We put some fundamentals in our bill that it’s got to take all things into consideration: Coal, gas, nuclear, biomass, hydro, all the above,” he added.
Research into clean-coal technologies is also critical, McKinley said.
Japan has pledged $1.6 trillion on energy research by 2035, while the United States has committed $37 billion in the same time frame, McKinley said.
McKinley said he repeatedly has to argue for more funding than the Obama administration proposes for the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown.
“The solution is not to start cutting back on research and development, and that’s what’s happening,” he said.
Q: In the 1st Congressional District, efforts to diversify the economy with more high-technology and aerospace jobs have been successful. As a congressman, what do you see as your role to help those efforts?
A: McKinley said being accessible is important to keeping the high-tech companies that are here and attracting more.
It’s easier to get businesses to expand by retaining them than it is to attract new firms, McKinley said.
“Someone has already got their investment here, their plant’s here,” he said. “It’s painful to see them pull up and go someplace else. To replace them, every company that’s considering relocation has all 50 states that they fly over.”
With competition so fierce, it may be quite costly for the state to lure companies with tax incentives, McKinley said.
“Take care of your existing companies,” McKinley said. “Hold their hand. Listen to them. Make sure that if they reach out, that you’re available to hear what’s on their mind.”
McKinley said he regularly meets with county commissioners and development groups throughout the state because they have their fingers on the pulse of their communities.
“I want them to know if there’s something going on, that there’s an undercurrent or a potential of someone pulling the plug — I want to know early on so we can talk to them and find out what is the problem,” McKinley said.
“Invariably, what we’ll find out is regulations are too excessive,” he added. “The tax structure is still a penalty in this country, and we’re still dealing with corporate inversions. I’m hoping we can get something that will remove the incentive to go away.”
Q: There has been significant discussion of the Affordable Care Act and its effects on health care in West Virginia. Do you support President Obama’s ACA? How would you change it?
A: McKinley said he doesn’t give the Affordable Care Act a clean bill of health.
In fact, he voted to repeal and replace what Republicans derisively call Obamacare, McKinley said.
“But it is the law of the land,” he conceded. “So given we don’t have the votes to overturn it and replace it, it is incumbent on us to amend it to make it work. That’s what we’ve done.”
Republicans and Democrats alike were working on health care plans in 2009, when the Affordable Care Act was first introduced, McKinley said.
Both plans included provisions to provide coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions and to allow children to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they’re 26 years old, McKinley said.
“Just because it’s in Obamacare doesn’t mean it’s the genius, it’s the epicenter,” McKinley said. “It is universally accepted we need to do this. We want to make sure any alternative has some of these same conditions in it.”
Since the law passed, there have been 40 amendments made, and the president has signed 15, McKinley said.
That fact alone underscores the flaws in the legislation, McKinley said.
“I think there’s a realization it’s not perfect,” he said. “It wasn’t passed in that way. We just try to keep working at it to clean it up. I want to push health savings accounts. I think we ought to be able to do more of that. We have alternatives.”
Q: Do you believe the federal government has done enough to rein in business practices that helped to lead to the Great Recession? Do you believe the economy is on firm ground? What measures should be considered to strengthen the U.S. economy?
A: McKinley said the economy is hardly on firm ground, although there are pockets of growth.
Worker participation rate — an indicator of confidence Americans have in the economy — is low, McKinley said.
“I think Wall Street up until (recently) was hitting record highs, but Main Street wasn’t feeling it,” he added.
The corporate tax rate, which stands at 35 percent, needs to be addressed, but that probably won’t happen this year, McKinley said.
The administration needs to loosen some of the regulations so coal and natural gas companies can export their products, McKinley said.
Natural gas companies are concerned the Obama administration will turn its attention to them once it’s through with coal, McKinley said.
“They’re very much concerned about how coal holds up on this,” he said. “They’re the first line of defense. If coal falls, then it’s coming after gas. We know that.”
If the housing industry was the cause of the Great Recession, some provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act have probably prevented abuses from recurring, McKinley said.
But other provisions in the bill are causing banks to refrain from financing projects, McKinley noted.
“Obama inherited a bad economy that was going south, but his policies of uncertainty and overregulation actually made a bad situation worse,” he said. “And we’ve never really recovered from it.”
Q: What should be done to increase job growth in the U.S.
A: McKinley said corporate tax reform is the key to spurring job growth in the nation.
“We have to get it down to 25 percent, which is the average of the industrialized nations around the world,” McKinley said. “Allow us to export more readily and produce more product.
“Get regulators to back off and quit causing uncertainty,” he added. “I don’t think the air is any less clear than in 2008. But what we’ve caused is so much uncertainty. People are afraid of losing their jobs.”
Q: What role should the federal government play in education? What can be done to improve both secondary and higher education?
A: McKinley said the federal government’s role in education should be limited.
Sweeping standards like Common Core have parents and other opponents pushing back, McKinley said.
“I don’t think the federal government should be forcing standards,” he said. “There are unfunded mandates and requirements that one size fits all. Set a standard and let each state decide how they want to achieve that standard or more.”
McKinley said he has held roundtables across the state with education officials, and the one concern he has heard at all the sessions is that too much emphasis is put on tests.
In response to that concern, McKinley said he has amended a bill to consider demographics and other factors when looking at test scores.
“I was glad to put it in,” he said.
As for higher education, McKinley said the federal government can make going to college more affordable by providing more money to grant programs.
Congress took steps to prevent interest rates on student loans from increasing to 7.6 percent from 3.8 percent, McKinley said.
“It was unfair to put people who had made decisions to go to school to all of a sudden have their interest rates double,” he said.