Federal transit dollars for West Virginia at risk

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — If House Bill 4331 is not approved, West Virginia transit agencies say they stand to lose millions of dollars in federal aid.

The bill would authorize federal funding for public transit in Mountain State, but federal law says agencies must authorize the collection of union dues directly from workers’ paychecks.

“By not being able to collect these union dues, we are in fact not complying with these requirements of the Ministry of Labor. So that makes us ineligible for federal funding,” said Sean Hill, Kanawha Valley Regional Transit.

Critics say it violates West Virginia’s Paycheck Protection Act, which was passed last year.

“That’s what they say they’re in danger of, because it’s a violation of their collective agreement. But it’s not. It’s just a convenience factor for the union to take it straight out of the check,” Del said. Geoff Foster, (R) Putnam.

Meanwhile, transit leaders say the state will lose $16 million in federal funding each year and $125 million from the federal infrastructure program. This could mean layoffs and cuts to bus service.

“Without 30% of our funding, we’re going to have to make some really tough decisions about the level of service we provide in Kanawha County,” said Sean Hill, Kanawha Valley Regional Transit.

Other affected transit agencies are in Cabell, Wood, Harrison and Ohio counties. Studies show that one in five West Virginians use public transportation.

“OVRTA takes people to the Highlands for their work. This takes them to the Highlands where West Liberty has a campus. It takes them to downtown Wheeling where they can receive services at the Wheeling Clinic,” said Del Erikka Storch, (R) Ohio County,

Since these are federal dollars and a potential conflict with state laws, some believe a federal court may have to decide.

After being in legislative limbo, the transit bill is back on the House calendar and there could be a final vote on Friday.

Melvin Z. Madore