CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The shock waves over this week’s firing of Gayle Manchin as Secretary of the Department of Education and the Arts continue to ripple around the state.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline” on Wednesday, said from his perspective she left Governor Jim Justice with very little choice.
“She had offered to resign, so you’re out the door one way or the other,” said Carmichael, who favors legislation to break up the department.
The bill to abolish the cabinet level department and disburse the programs it currently oversees to other areas of state government is awaiting a decision from the governor.
Manchin spoke up and criticized the bill after she was told by the Administration to stay silent. She was let go after her news release went out. On “Talkline,” she defended her position as one of an advocate for the agency’s programs.
Carmichael said the bill wasn’t one of his key issues, but when it was brought to him it made sense.
He said the Manchin name should matter less than the policy decision.
“If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s Gayle Manchin, I don’t think this would be that big a deal,” said Carmichael. “I think he should sign the bill. To not do so at this point would be a mistake. It’s been identified that all of these entities and functions of that department can be served in other areas of government.”
He added the decisions about the department would not have been nearly as controversial if anyone else had been in charge.
“This is in no way personal at all. I wish the circumstances were different,” Carmichael said. “This has been identified for many years as an area that is duplicative. Governor Caperton and others had recommended its elimination.”
The bill has been studied for several years as a way to streamline state government programs and to gain efficiency. Carmichael said the move could save at least $700,000 annually and could save up to $4 million.
“We’ve all seen how valuable each taxpayer dollar is,” he said. “We’ve had to cut vital services in our state in order to balance budgets, any time we can find efficiencies we should do so.”