Tomblin’s proposal has merit

A household environment in which no one is bringing home a paycheck is an unhealthy one. Ask anyone who’s had to cope with the challenge of feeding children healthy meals on food stamps. Or ask a child who’s sick frequently because mom and dad can’t afford some medicines.

But many radical environmentalists don’t seem particularly concerned about that. They are too preoccupied with blocking job creation through new businesses and forcing up the cost of living for everyone by demanding new restrictions on existing ones.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is asking legislators to approve a program that would provide jobs impact estimates for some bills they consider. Tomblin thinks better policy decisions can be made if he and lawmakers understand how many jobs might be created – or destroyed – by specific bills.

If anything, the governor’s proposal may be too limited. It would allow governors, speakers of the House of Delegates and presidents of the state Senate to request jobs impact statements from the state Development Office. Analysts there would have 20 days to prepare their estimates.

Obviously, the Development Office does not have the resources to prepare jobs impact statements for every bill. That probably is why Tomblin’s proposal restricts the number of officials who can request the estimates. It might be helpful to expand the plan so estimates can be required by, say, a majority vote in either house of the Legislature.

Most lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, seem to like Tomblin’s idea. But there is opposition.

Such proposals have been made previously, but environmentalists have opposed them. Don Garvin of the West Virginia Environmental Council said one concern is the jobs impact information would be used to argue against efforts to curb pollution.

In fact, Garvin insisted in a published report, “Its sole purpose is to delay or defeat regulatory legislation.”

Nonsense. Thoughtful legislators will use jobs impact estimates for a variety of reasons. They will affect tax-related bills, for example.

And what if they do affect regulatory bills? Shouldn’t state officials have some idea of whether a proposal may plunge hundreds or thousands of families into poverty – again, a decidedly unhealthy environment?

Perhaps Tomblin’s proposal should be amended. But in some form, to make legislators aware of the consequences of their actions, it should be enacted.