Published On: Wed, Mar 19th, 2014

Rahall fields questions from Chamber of Commerce

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Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce members held a teleconference with U.S. Congressman Nick Rahall at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory on Monday afternoon. Rahall was unable to be present in person due to bad road conditions, but answered questions for more than an hour during the teleconference. Pictured, l-r, front row: Janet Ghigo, Linda Simmons, Paula Garretson, Cara Rose and Anita Watson. Back row, l-r: Kenneth Varner, Roger Trusler, Tim McClung, Melissa Kane, Mike O’Brien, Mike Holstine, Joe Smith, Larry Garretson, Richard Laska and Marcia Laska. G. Hamill photo.

The Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce held a teleconference with Congressman Nick Rahall on Monday afternoon at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). Rahall was unable to be present, due to bad road conditions, but answered questions for more than an hour during the teleconference.

Rahall began with a statement about the Affordable Care Act.

“I know the health care act is paramount on everybody’s radar screen,” he said. “It’s a bill that I think needs a lot of fixing. I’ve been in Congress more than 30 years and I’ve never seen the perfect law. Certainly, this piece of legislation is not the perfect law. I voted many times over the past many months to make amendments to it – including extending the compliance time for our businesses and even for our individuals. I’ve also voted to alleviate some of the burdensome IRS reporting requirements, that were initially required under the law. I am opposed to the HIT tax [health insurance tax] that hits our small businesses and I am opposed to cuts in the Medicare Advantage program.”

“There’s a lot of good in the Affordable Care Act, but again, I recognize that it’s hurting a lot of people,” Rahall added. “We need to fix it where it’s not working.”

Chamber members agreed with Rahall that there were good aspects of the law.

“Since I moved here 20 years ago, I’ve lost two very good friends – one of them age 40 and one age 50 – because they could not afford health insurance,” said Rich Laska. “I wish people would keep that in mind, whenever they discuss the subject. Health insurance saves lives.”

“I’d like you to try and make sure you don’t back pedal too much on the Affordable Care Act, even though all of those Koch brothers ads are coming out, blaming you for the horrors of the health law,” said Janet Ghigo. “I am on the hospital board these days. I was impressed that they were able to give raises for the first time in four years. Now, the patients have insurance and are paying for their care, instead of coming in under charity care. Before, there was all kinds of charity care. It’s really made a difference.”

Several Chamber members stressed the need for better broadband Internet in Pocahontas County.

“On the expansion of broadband, it’s not only important for the K-12 education system, but in our post-secondary education system, as well,” said Roger Trusler. “It would be a great benefit to the public libraries in the county. Currently, we have a connection with New River Community and Technical College in the county. I’m sure they would appreciate having larger bandwidth, in order to transmit additional courses or expand the capabilities of their current courses.”

“I’m a small entrepreneur here in the county,” said Marcia Laska. “I dye silk scarves. I don’t have the bandwidth I need to have a website that has sufficient power to post images. I only have a satellite dish.

It’s difficult to encourage other artists and small entrepreneurs, who love the beauty of this area and would want to live here, to take that risk, if they cannot make a business of it.”

Rahall said rural Internet service has not been given sufficient priority.

“We often don’t give enough attention to the Internet and to technology infrastructure, so vital to many parts of our state,” he said. “That’s a big issue that has not received a lot of the attention that it should, when we talk about infrastructure. The Internet is so important to everything we do – education to business opportunities and health services. It’s just vital that we have those capabilities in the rural parts of our state that some of the big cities take for granted.”

NRAO business manager Mike Holstine reminded Rahall that county residents are technologically disadvantaged by living in the National Radio Quiet Zone. Holstine suggested using that disadvantage as leverage, to obtain federal funds for broadband improvement.

“We should be able to leverage those monies and the commitment that we have,” said Rahall.

The congressman said concerns, questions and recommendations about Internet issues should be directed to Kent Keyser, a member of his Washington, D.C. staff. The phone number to Rahall’s Washington office is 202-225-3452.

Rahall decried the polarization in Congress.

“We’re to blame, number one, but by golly, in the day of 24/7 news cycles, these national cable networks are partially to blame, as well,” he said. “They love to polarize the American people. Therefore, a polarized Congress. They get the far right and the far left on their shows and get them fighting each other. Those of us in the middle, we’re trying to bring the extremes together, but we never get on the shows because we don’t bring in the high ratings.”

Rahall said the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Communications Commission opened the door for a “hijacking of democracy” by allowing undisclosed, unlimited donations to non-profit groups that run media campaigns on various issues. Rahall said foreign governments can contribute to these groups, without disclosure.

“They do not have to disclose how they’re funding themselves,” he said. “That’s how Americans For Prosperity – I call it Americans For The Prosperous – under the Koch brothers, set up about 17 different foundations under this loophole. It allows them to fund these different groups to go out and run these negative ads. They cannot be for or against a candidate, they have to be on issues. So, they deal with negative issues, like they are on me.”

Rahall said legislation to force disclosure on funding of the nominally non-politcal media campaigns had failed to pass in Congress.

Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Cara Rose said she was disappointed when she did not get a deduction for medical expenses on her taxes, but learned that gambling losses are an allowable deduction. Rahall said he was unaware of the gambling deduction, but was aware that the tax system needed overhauled. The congressman said many large corporations pay no taxes, but receive government incentives to outsource jobs overseas.

“When we talk about tax reform, everybody wants to do it until we get down to the details,” Rahall said. “Then, everybody’s anxious to protect their own specific interests. That’s why it has become so hard.”

Varner asked Rahall about welfare reform.

“I don’t feel like there’s much need to get up and go to work in the morning anymore, because you’ve got all these handouts out here for welfare and everything else,” he said. “They don’t have to pass a drug and alcohol test. They set at home and get all this free relief and everything. At the end of the year, they get seven, eight, nine, 10 thousand dollars back on taxes. Why can’t something be done about that?”

Rahall said said Congress had agreed on welfare cuts in a recently passed farm bill, but that additional reform is needed. The congressman said he is opposed to Social Security cuts, privatization, or investment in the stock market.

Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith thanked Rahall for his support following the November 10 downtown fire.

“Your office has been in contact with me numerous times and we referred businesses to your office for support and what-not, and I know that they’ve gotten answers that they needed.”

Rahall said there is strong support in Congress for continuation of the Payments In Lieu of Taxes program, which reimburses county governments, in counties with with federal lands, for the loss of property tax revenue. Pocahontas County receives approximately $750,000 every year under the program.

Rahall is scheduled to be in Hillsboro next week to help deliver Meals On Wheels to senior citizens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce held a teleconference with Congressman Nick Rahall on Monday afternoon at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). Rahall was unable to be present, due to bad road conditions, but answered questions for more than an hour during the teleconference.

Rahall began with a statement about the Affordable Care Act.

“I know the health care act is paramount on everybody’s radar screen,” he said. “It’s a bill that I think needs a lot of fixing. I’ve been in Congress more than 30 years and I’ve never seen the perfect law. Certainly, this piece of legislation is not the perfect law. I voted many times over the past many months to make amendments to it – including extending the compliance time for our businesses and even for our individuals. I’ve also voted to alleviate some of the burdensome IRS reporting requirements, that were initially required under the law. I am opposed to the HIT tax [health insurance tax] that hits our small businesses and I am opposed to cuts in the Medicare Advantage program.”

“There’s a lot of good in the Affordable Care Act, but again, I recognize that it’s hurting a lot of people,” Rahall added. “We need to fix it where it’s not working.”

Chamber members agreed with Rahall that there were good aspects of the law.

“Since I moved here 20 years ago, I’ve lost two very good friends – one of them age 40 and one age 50 – because they could not afford health insurance,” said Rich Laska. “I wish people would keep that in mind, whenever they discuss the subject. Health insurance saves lives.”

“I’d like you to try and make sure you don’t back pedal too much on the Affordable Care Act, even though all of those Koch brothers ads are coming out, blaming you for the horrors of the health law,” said Janet Ghigo. “I am on the hospital board these days. I was impressed that they were able to give raises for the first time in four years. Now, the patients have insurance and are paying for their care, instead of coming in under charity care. Before, there was all kinds of charity care. It’s really made a difference.”

Several Chamber members stressed the need for better broadband Internet in Pocahontas County.

“On the expansion of broadband, it’s not only important for the K-12 education system, but in our post-secondary education system, as well,” said Roger Trusler. “It would be a great benefit to the public libraries in the county. Currently, we have a connection with New River Community and Technical College in the county. I’m sure they would appreciate having larger bandwidth, in order to transmit additional courses or expand the capabilities of their current courses.”

“I’m a small entrepreneur here in the county,” said Marcia Laska. “I dye silk scarves. I don’t have the bandwidth I need to have a website that has sufficient power to post images. I only have a satellite dish.

It’s difficult to encourage other artists and small entrepreneurs, who love the beauty of this area and would want to live here, to take that risk, if they cannot make a business of it.”

Rahall said rural Internet service has not been given sufficient priority.

“We often don’t give enough attention to the Internet and to technology infrastructure, so vital to many parts of our state,” he said. “That’s a big issue that has not received a lot of the attention that it should, when we talk about infrastructure. The Internet is so important to everything we do – education to business opportunities and health services. It’s just vital that we have those capabilities in the rural parts of our state that some of the big cities take for granted.”

NRAO business manager Mike Holstine reminded Rahall that county residents are technologically disadvantaged by living in the National Radio Quiet Zone. Holstine suggested using that disadvantage as leverage, to obtain federal funds for broadband improvement.

“We should be able to leverage those monies and the commitment that we have,” said Rahall.

The congressman said concerns, questions and recommendations about Internet issues should be directed to Kent Keyser, a member of his Washington, D.C. staff. The phone number to Rahall’s Washington office is 202-225-3452.

Rahall decried the polarization in Congress.

“We’re to blame, number one, but by golly, in the day of 24/7 news cycles, these national cable networks are partially to blame, as well,” he said. “They love to polarize the American people. Therefore, a polarized Congress. They get the far right and the far left on their shows and get them fighting each other. Those of us in the middle, we’re trying to bring the extremes together, but we never get on the shows because we don’t bring in the high ratings.”

Rahall said the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Communications Commission opened the door for a “hijacking of democracy” by allowing undisclosed, unlimited donations to non-profit groups that run media campaigns on various issues. Rahall said foreign governments can contribute to these groups, without disclosure.

“They do not have to disclose how they’re funding themselves,” he said. “That’s how Americans For Prosperity – I call it Americans For The Prosperous – under the Koch brothers, set up about 17 different foundations under this loophole. It allows them to fund these different groups to go out and run these negative ads. They cannot be for or against a candidate, they have to be on issues. So, they deal with negative issues, like they are on me.”

Rahall said legislation to force disclosure on funding of the nominally non-politcal media campaigns had failed to pass in Congress.

Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Cara Rose said she was disappointed when she did not get a deduction for medical expenses on her taxes, but learned that gambling losses are an allowable deduction. Rahall said he was unaware of the gambling deduction, but was aware that the tax system needed overhauled. The congressman said many large corporations pay no taxes, but receive government incentives to outsource jobs overseas.

“When we talk about tax reform, everybody wants to do it until we get down to the details,” Rahall said. “Then, everybody’s anxious to protect their own specific interests. That’s why it has become so hard.”

Varner asked Rahall about welfare reform.

“I don’t feel like there’s much need to get up and go to work in the morning anymore, because you’ve got all these handouts out here for welfare and everything else,” he said. “They don’t have to pass a drug and alcohol test. They set at home and get all this free relief and everything. At the end of the year, they get seven, eight, nine, 10 thousand dollars back on taxes. Why can’t something be done about that?”

Rahall said said Congress had agreed on welfare cuts in a recently passed farm bill, but that additional reform is needed. The congressman said he is opposed to Social Security cuts, privatization, or investment in the stock market.

Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith thanked Rahall for his support following the November 10 downtown fire.

“Your office has been in contact with me numerous times and we referred businesses to your office for

support and what-not, and I know that they’ve gotten answers that they needed.”

Rahall said there is strong support in Congress for continuation of the Payments In Lieu of Taxes program, which reimburses county governments, in counties with with federal lands, for the loss of property tax revenue. Pocahontas County receives approximately $750,000 every year under the program.

Rahall is scheduled to be in Hillsboro next week to help deliver Meals On Wheels to senior citizens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

- Geoff Hamill can be contacted at gshamill@pocahontastimes.com