Bipartisan brush-off: E. Ky. wants to hear Rogers', Beshear's plans

September 26, 2013 

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset

One thing you can say for the official indifference toward Eastern Kentucky's future: It is bipartisan.

A statement this week from Republican Rep. Hal Rogers reminded us of Gov. Steve Beshear's earlier brush-off.

Rogers was responding to a plea from Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne Rutherford to tap a federal coal-tax fund to create jobs and spur economic development.

In a statement to WYMT-TV, Rogers didn't directly address what it would take to channel more money from the Abandoned Mine Lands fund into Central Appalachia, except to caution that spending down the fund's principal would threaten the interest it generates, which pays for health care for retired miners whose pension plans disappeared.

Rogers also did not respond to the sense of urgency behind the request. Nor did he acknowledge the spreading realization among Kentuckians, expressed by Rutherford, that "the time for hand-wringing, slogans and bemoaning is over" and the time for action is here.

Instead, Rogers dished out more hand-wringing, slogans and bemoaning, blaming the economic plight of his district entirely on "President Obama's war on coal."

"Over the last several months," Rogers said, "I have slashed the EPA's budget and supported pro-coal legislation to bring this war on coal to a halt. As leaders, we have to stand shoulder to shoulder in this fight to protect our way of life."

Rogers also said, "I am meeting weekly with leaders in Kentucky and across the country to address our dire need for more jobs and opportunity."

Earlier this year, Beshear brushed off a suggestion to revive the Kentucky Appalachian Task Force to help the region achieve what a pair of University of Kentucky scholars called a "soft landing from coal." Beshear let his spokeswoman respond that he had "directed his cabinets to consider ways to assist this region" but didn't provide any details.

In the five years since Barack Obama was elected president, Kentucky's politicians of both parties have convinced us that they are standing "shoulder to shoulder" against Obama and anything that might hurt the coal industry, which puts lots of money behind candidates of both parties.

We'd like Rogers to explain how, despite the "war," the coal industry is creating jobs in Western Kentucky at the same time it has laid off more than 6,000 workers in Eastern Kentucky.

But, most of all, Kentuckians want to hear less about what Rogers, Beshear and the rest are against and more about what they're for. We want to hear what they are doing to make sure Kentucky's mountains have a future beyond coal.

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