West Virginia residents eager to get money from Biden despite senator’s concerns By Reuters

Connecticut infrastructure funding in question: state report

2/2 © Reuters. Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed by police last week, poses in an undated family photo 2/2

By Jason Lange and Makini Brice WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Shortly before President Joe Biden‘s speech urging Congress to pass his $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, fellow Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told reporters that he was “uncomfortable” with the huge sums of money that Biden intended to spend. . In Manchin’s home state of West Virginia, various elected officials, including Republicans, have a different message: The more money, the better at attracting new workers to the state, especially with high-speed broadband services. “It’s a lot of money, a lot of money,” Manchin said before a speech in which Biden presented spending proposals worth $ 4 trillion. “That makes you very uncomfortable. You wonder how we are going to pay for it.” In a 50-50 chamber where the majority of Democrats rely on Vice President Kamala Harris‘s runoff vote, every senator is crucial, but none is more closely watched than Manchin, a fiscal conservative from a state who mostly votes for the Republicans. West Virginia lags behind most other states in the quality of its roads, bridges, and Internet services. The American Society of Civil Engineers rates West Virginia a “D” for infrastructure, and nearly one in five state residents live in an area without fixed broadband, the third worst in the country, according to the Federal Communications Commission. (For a map of US broadband access, click https://tmsnrt.rs/3aPlQS6) The dire situation prompted Republican state governor Jim Justice to say last week that he would appreciate the funds proposed by Biden. An “Ascend WV” initiative introduced by Justice this month aims to attract new residents with the promise that they can do their jobs remotely from a state where outdoor recreation abounds, the cost of living is low and there is a $ 12,000 cash incentive to relocate. Experts say that without broadband expansion, the program is unlikely to be feasible in many areas of the state. “We have so many projects in West Virginia that it can really be of incredible benefit to this,” Justice said at a news conference last week. “I have more wishes and hopes than worries.” Four West Virginia Republicans-elect and two Democrats said in interviews with Reuters or in public statements that they supported Biden’s plan, though some expressed concern that programs other than infrastructure could also get funding. THE PLAN In addition to money for highways, bridges and broadband, Biden’s proposal includes hundreds of billions for schools, home health care and manufacturing that, according to Republicans in Congress, are not related to infrastructure. Manchin, whose office declined to comment for this story, disagrees with Biden’s proposal on the grounds that it raises corporate taxes too much and insists that it be passed with some bipartisan support, which is unlikely. It will take some high-stakes moves in the Democratic Party for Manchin to join Biden’s plan, analysts said. Congressional Democrats could try to appeal to Manchin with additional infrastructure funding for their state, said Jessica Taylor, a political analyst at Cook Political Report. Ultimately, they may need to cut down on some of the spending plans. “Obviously, he wields a lot of power in the Senate right now,” Taylor said. West Virginia’s other senator, Republican Shelley Moore Capito, has joined a group proposing an infrastructure package roughly a quarter the size of Biden. That proposal includes $ 65 billion in funding for broadband access, compared to $ 100 billion at Biden. Neither party has submitted an invoice or provided details on what specific things the funds would pay for. Wherever it comes from, West Virginia lawmakers say they are unlikely to solve their state’s problems without federal support. West Virginia is the only state in the nation that has lost population since 1950, despite being a short drive from the nation’s capital. Thirty-five of the state’s 52 counties have areas where the population does not have access to the Internet, according to the West Virginia Broadband Council. “What we need with broadband is to survive,” said Rollan Roberts, a Republican state senator. “Any kind of federal aid that we can access, to help West Virginia, will help us transition from the downward spiral to attract more people to our population.”