CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — This week on Inside West Virginia Politics, officials from West Virginia and beyond discuss President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, how West Virginia is expanding broadband, and how a donation to a university in West Virginia will help undergrad students. 

Is Biden’s infrastructure bill a pork barrel spending bill? 

In Segment 1, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R) Kentucky shares his concerns about the $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill proposed by President Joe Biden on top of the $6 trillion spendings related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Paul said Republicans want bipartisan support to have the infrastructure bill focus on repairing and replacing roads and bridges. However, Paul says the infrastructure bill is being used as a “pork barrel spending bill” due to board terms within the bill to include childcare, reparations and medicare. 

Republican Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has an alternative plan which includes a $700 billion infrastructure plan that would focus on roads and bridges. “If we made it bipartisan and about infrastructure, I think we could get big support for this,” said Paul. 

Why are children and frontline workers a part of Biden’s infrastructure bill?

In Segment 2, Seth DiStefano from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy office says he supports President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, which affects the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. “When it comes to West Virginia kids and West Virginia working families, there really is no danger in doing too much. There is a danger in doing too little,” said DiStefano. 

The American Rescue Plan expanded the child tax credit to around 3,600 per child depending on economic status and made it more refundable. Under the current expansion, this tax credit is temporary. According to DiStefano, 94% of West Virginian children would benefit from the Child Tax Credit if the expansion was made permanent under Biden’s infrastructure bill. 

The Earned Income Tax Credit now maximizes the tax refund for families in West Virginia under the American Rescue Plan and was expanded to include people who do not have children. DiStefano says if this expansion were made permanent, 110,000 frontline workers would be able to take their own money out at tax time and drive economic growth. 

Distefano says frontline and essential workers are a part of the infrastructure bill because they were necessary during the pandemic and giving them more money would show the country’s appreciation for them.  

How expanding broadband can help repopulate West Virginia

In Segment 3, Del. Daniel Linville (R) Cabell County, Assistant Majority Whip, discusses the importance of broadband expansion in the Mountain State. 

During the 2021 Legislative Session, Linville says two bills passed that would regulate red-tape cutting, move the process significantly faster, add many consumer protections, and provide funding for the Broadband Insurance Program, allowing local providers to take advantage of federal dollars. 

It’s estimated that between 23% to 40% of West Virginia had no broadband signal, and a study shows West Virginia has the nation’s second-slowest internet speeds. Linville says the leading cause for slower internet speeds has been lack of competition in the market, as Frontier Communications dominates in West Virginia and the older technology still being used. According to Linville, DSL cannot use gigabit internet as Fiber Broadband can. 

He also discusses Gov. Jim Justice’s ASCEND West Virginia Program that entices remote workers to move to West Virginia. Linville agrees with the program and says broadband would allow the state to expand the economy and help regain some population back. 

$1 Million donation to Wesleyan for Undergrad fellowship research

In Segment 4, John McCuskey, a former member of the House of Delegates and a well-known Charleston lawyer, discusses his recent $1 million donation to Wesleyan University, his alma mater. 

McCuskey says he wants to see what his donation can accomplish. The donation will help fund fellowship programs for research in the science fields for undergraduates.