CHARLESTON — Three West Virginia House of Delegates members who represent all or parts of Upshur County today announced that they plan to introduce a bill on the House floor that would funnel $10 million of West Virginia’s budget surplus to help President Donald Trump build a wall along the southern U.S. border.
Carl “Robbie” Martin, R-45, is the lead sponsor of the bill, which would direct $10 million of West Virginia’s budget surplus — close to $200 million currently — to be given to the federal government and earmarked for funding a wall that would separate Mexico from the United States.
Martin’s co-sponsors include his brother, Del. Patrick Martin, R-Lewis, who represents part of Upshur, and Del. Caleb Hanna, R-Webster, whose district also covers parts of Nicholas, Randolph and Upshur counties.
Carl “Robbie” Martin told My Buckhannon Tuesday morning said he sees the bill as a mechanism to put a dent in the Mountain State’s addiction and drug epidemic, as well as a way to show his supporters he’s living up to his campaign promise to support President Donald Trump and his agenda.
“Whenever I ran for office, if you look at my TV ads, I said, ‘I’m going to support Donald Trump and his agenda,'” Martin said, “and I believe a majority of my constituents support Donald Trump and Donald Trump’s agenda.”
Halting the influx of drugs into the state is the primary reason Martin has asked that the bill be drafted, however.
“The main reason we’re wanting to push this through is because of the terrible drug epidemic we have here,” Martin said. “I’ve talked to multiple judges and multiple law enforcement officers, and all of them say 90 percent of the drugs they’re seeing are coming from Mexico.”
“It isn’t the end-all solution to this problem, but it’s a step in the right direction to end this problem that we have in our state,” he added.
Hanna, one of the bill’s two co-sponsors, made the first public announcement about the forthcoming legislation Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m. during an appearance on “Fox and Friends.”
“I believe in President Trump and the wall,” Hanna said. “For me, this is no different than sending our National Guard to the border or overseas to protect U.S. interests. We, as a state, have resources available to help make America more secure, and I believe West Virginians would want those resources used to make us more safe.”
Since the announcement has been made, Martin told My Buckhannon he, his brother Patrick and Hanna have been inundated with requests from other House of Delegates members asking to be listed as sponsors on the bill.
“It should be coming out of drafting any time now,” Martin said. “Then after that, we will be getting multiple sponsors. There have been multiple delegates who want to be on the bill. We’ve been having them left and right asking, ‘Please add me to that bill.'”
“The maximum number of [allowable] sponsors is 10,” he added, “and I think we’ll be maxed out.”
Martin said diverting the $10 million of West Virginia funds to Trump’s proposed border wall won’t interfere with Gov. Jim Justice’s plans to utilize the surplus to fund raises for teachers, public employees and school personnel or shore up the Pubic Employees Insurance Agency or PEIA. He supports money from the budget surplus being used for those purposes, he emphasized.
“This [$10 million] is less than 5 percent of our surplus, but a large percentage of the surplus is still going to go to PEIA and teacher pay raises,” Martin said, “and with this bill, I feel like we’re going to save money in the long run. It’s an investment we’ll see return on regarding putting a stop to the drug epidemic.”
Martin said he hopes that $10 million contribution, if passed, would help usher in the end of the federal government shutdown, currently the longest in history.
“Of course, yes, we want to see our federal employees get back to work, and if this can in some way aid in that, that would be great,” Marin said.
In press release sent out by the W.Va. House of Delegates early Tuesday afternoon, Martin’s brother, Del. Patrick Martin, said, “This is about our children and our future, and we must do everything in our power to protect them. Since the D.C. liberals won’t act on this, we will. And I hope West Virginia serves as an example to other states that it’s time to stand up against inaction in Washington and band together to do what’s right.”
According to the governor’s website, West Virginia’s budget surplus for the first six months of the fiscal year totaled $185.9 million. However, another $58 million in funds have yet to be appropriated by the Legislature.
“Therefore, the actual surplus is $243.9 million with the expectation that the state will actually experience a larger surplus by the conclusion of FY 2018,” according to information on the site.