Cole, Kessler see State of the State differently
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Senate President Bill Cole says the Senate will keep up the pace it set in last year’s legislative session when Republicans took over the body for the first time in more than 80 years.
“We got to work (today),” Cole said after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s State of the State Address Wednesday night. “We didn’t waste a day.”
Issues like right to work and drug testing of welfare recipients could be on some early agendas of Senate committees.
Cole had a mixed response to the proposals in the governor’s speech.
“I agree with some of the things the governor is putting forth. I’m not sure I can swallow them all,” Cole said.
Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) was glad the governor has a plan to address most of the $120 million in PEIA cuts impacting the health insurance for state workers.
“Which I think absolutely needs to be done. He’s going to reduce 90 percent of the draconian cuts that were espoused,” Kessler said.
The governor also called for more substance abuse counseling, which Kessler supports. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate also said he understood the governor’s call for tax increases to fill a revenue shortfall in the state budget.
“I think they are going to actually have to be done with a $350 million budget deficit in order to balance this budget,” Kessler said.
Kessler, Cole and other senators had to walk through a few thousand union workers who rallied at the state capitol Wednesday night against right to work legislation and bills that would repeal prevailing wage. Some of the protests were misguided, Cole, a Republican candidate for governor, told MetroNews.
“I applaud everybody’s right to free speech and demonstration but unfortunately I think they get filled with half of the story. At the end of the day we lead the nation in unemployment–what are they protecting?”