Approve TIF For Monongalia

Northern Panhandle residents are well aware of how help from the state can result in great things for the local economy. The gigantic Highlands development off Interstate 70 in Ohio County probably would not have happened without such assistance.

But time is of the essence in economic development. Last week state legislators managed to throw a monkey wrench into the machinery of a proposal in Monongalia County.

There, West Virginia University, the city of Morgantown and Monongalia County officials have a plan that could boost that area’s economy. It involves development of a 110-acre tract off Interstate 79.

Part of the plan is for a new $16.2 million baseball park to serve WVU and a minor league professional team. But that is just part of the development. Some businesses already have committed to locating at the site. Eventually, it could employ as many as 1,500 permanent workers.

For the plan to proceed, legislative approval of a tax increment financing package, worth an estimated $96 million, had been requested from the Legislature. State senators approved the measure.

But on Saturday, the last day of lawmakers’ regular session for this year, the proposal was torpedoed for what appear to be purely political reasons.

Reportedly, disagreement between the House of Delegates and the Senate was to blame. Senators had approved a bill to rectify an inequity in pay scales for magistrates and their staffs. Delegates wanted a different measure and, on Saturday, a few leaders in the House refused to act on the Monongalia County TIF plan until the Senate agreed to change the magistrate bill.

In the end, neither bill was approved by the midnight Saturday deadline.

Legislators still are in Charleston, hashing out the details of a state budget for the coming year. Before they leave, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should call a special session, with the TIF and magistrate bills on the agenda.

Both measures should be approved by the Legislature. In the case of the Monongalia County development, delay could set the plan back badly, or even kill it.