Appalachian News-Express, Pikeville
The General Assembly giveth, and the General Assembly taketh away.
Unfortunately, this time theyre taking away from the wrong people.
Were sure theres lots of pork in the budget we all know how inefficient the state government is.
So why, oh why, would they choose to cut the state budget for coal miners suffering from black lung disease?
State officials make the ridiculous argument that the money isnt being used, because under current state law, fewer than 10 percent of miners who apply for black lung benefits are approved.
Is that because black lung disease has been magically cured?
Of course not. The problem is the state government bureaucracy, where it has become nearly impossible to qualify to receive black lung benefits.
As a result, thousands of miners and former miners are suffering from this painful, terrible disease but arent able to get any help buying medicines or paying for treatments.
After all, that was the point of the fund in the first place.
The idea of taking $1.9 million out of the fund started with Gov. Ernie Fletchers office, but isnt being fought by the House or the Senate, according to The Associated Press.
Were sorry thats the case.
Its not that the money wont be used for a worthwhile cause they plan on using it for training for young miners.
Thats a great idea.
But the plan is shortsighted. Who will want to go into the mines, knowing their government will simply abandon them if they contract black lung?
Thats why we think the money needs to come from somewhere else.
We agree with Steve Earle, a lobbyist for the United Mine Workers of America, who told the AP: That money was put in that fund for miners who are suffering and dying from black lung, and thats what the intent was and thats what it should be used for.
Hes right, and were calling on our legislators to recognize it.
We hope they do the right thing.