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Hoppy’s Commentary for Friday

–John Raese surprised even some Republicans with his filing Thursday to run for U.S. Senate in 2012.  Raese, who lost to Joe Manchin by 53,000 votes in the 2010 Special Election (53 percent to 43 percent), will be rematched with Manchin if both win their primaries.  U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lobbied Raese to get in the contest.

–State Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio is trying to downplay the drag that President Obama will have on the Democratic ticket this year.  Puccio, appearing on Metronews Talkline this week, said Democrats need to run as if “John Doe” were at the top of the ticket. 

–Here’s one of the problems facing Republicans in West Virginia: some of the most successful Democrats act like Republicans.  Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s speech Wednesday night was pro-business, anti-tax as any Republican ever delivered in West Virginia.   Tomblin even threw in several pointed jabs at Washington just as exclamation points.

–West Virginia’s projected budget next fiscal year will total $4.494 billion in state dollars.  So, where does all the money go?  The largest portion—47 percent—goes to public education.  The next biggest chunk—19 percent—goes to Health and Human Services.  Higher Education is third, commanding 11 percent of the state budget.

–The cost of Medicaid, the state program that pays for health care for the poor, is rising dramatically in West Virginia.  The state’s share of Medicaid costs will approach $500 million next budget year, and that figure could rise by another $200 million the following year.  State officials say rising health care costs, the state’s aging population and the Obama health care law that will put more people on Medicaid are all driving up the cost to taxpayers.  

–Thursday was Transportation Day at the Legislature.  Contractors and public officials from across the state came together to call for more money to be spent fixing the state’s roads and bridges.  As always, the question is, “where will the money come from?”  One proposal being talked about would take the sales tax collected on items like tires and batteries and put that money toward roads instead of in the general fund. By one estimate, that could provide another $50 million a year for roads. Meanwhile, Transporation Secretary Paul Mattox is floating the idea of a $1 billion road bond amendment.

–Gambling sales in the state rose dramatically for several years, but now are headed the other way.  Figures from the state Lottery Commission show that lottery revenues rose an average  of 20 percent a year from 1991 to 2007, peaking at just under $1.6 billion in 2007; but sales have declined nearly three percent a year since 2007.   State revenue officials blame increasing competition from surrounding states.



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