By: Mike Marsh
West Virginia Republican Congressman, Alex Mooney, had an interesting proposition that stirred up controversy among West Virginia environmentalists and reporters. Last year when Mooney was running for a seat in the West Virginia Congress and was speaking during a West Virginia Business and Industry Council forum in Charleston, he was quoted saying “we should sell parts of our national parks to help fund the Highway Trust Fund.” His motive behind this proposition is that he claims 17 percent of highway user fees “are going to transit [programs], not to highways,” and that something needs to be done in order to restore the West Virginia Highway Trust Fund.
Selling parts of national parks, especially iconic parks in West Virginia like Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which Mooney reportedly proposed as a park that might be effected by new highway programs, had many people asking questions, and rightfully so. Harpers Ferry National Park definitely holds its own in regard to the Wild and Wonderful slogan.
The National Parks Conservation Association says that “we believe that America’s national parks and historical sites embody the American spirit. They are windows to our past, homes to some of our rarest plants and animal species, and places where every American can go to find inspiration, peace, and open space.” With so much wildlife in an area that is designed to be preserved for its natural beauty, it is scary to think about any program that would infringe on these conserved and protected areas.
Mooney received plenty of backlash from his highway proposition and was quick to mention that he was misquoted and what he said about restoring the West Virginia Highway Trust Fund was taken out of context. Moody explained to The Journal’s editorial board “that [Harpers Ferry National Park proposition] was a misquote…I keep getting asked that, and I didn’t say that.”
What Mooney supposedly intended with his highway proposition was that he wanted to sell land controlled by the federal Bureau of Land Management to fund the Highway Trust Fund. This was a big contradiction compared to the statement he was quoted on pertaining to selling parts of national parks to fund the Highway Trust Fund, considering the BLM does not manage national parks. National parks are operated and run by the National Park Service.
What Mooney’s intentions were with his idea to restore the Highway Trust Fund in West Virginia were still unclear, but Congress ended up passing an $11 billion “stop-gap measure” that rapidly revamped the Highway Trust Fund, which was close to running out. This however, came at the expense of public transportation, which left many still scratching their heads.
Like what was mentioned earlier, Mooney was reported to have said that 17 percent of the Highway Trust Fund goes to non-highway programs, specifically public transit programs, so there is some discrepancy in what he is saying regarding how much federal money is really being put towards public transportation from the Highway Trust Fund. It appears that what his plan is actually doing is reducing that percentage even further, and he doesn’t see a need for federal funding at all.
The Journal explains in their article that he would not be using the money from the trust fund to help public transit programs, and commuter trains that serve West Virginia counties like Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan would be devastated by this. Many public transit programs in the state would have a very hard time funding themselves without federal money. So when Mooney is quoted saying “as much as is possible, public transit programs should pay for themselves,” and at another point in time quoted saying that 17% of the money from The Highway Trust Fund would go towards transit programs , the discrepancies are obvious.
For someone who has recently passed the 100-day milestone representing the state of West Virginia in Congress, they sure do appear to be having a difficult time getting their facts straight regarding informing the public as to what their plans for the state really are.