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Now is Manchin’s moment to protect state’s energy and plastics

Since the first day of the 117th Congress, the state of West Virginia has enjoyed an exceptionally large role in our nation’s political spotlight. Communities across the Mountain State can thank Joe Manchin — our fiercely independent U.S. Senator — along with a once-in-a-generation 50-50 U.S. Senate split for these unique circumstances. Over the past year, Senator Manchin has served as the critical swing-vote on almost every major policy battle on Capitol Hill and seems to command the attention of Washington.

While some in D.C. might not like the oversized influence that West Virginia now has in our national political debates, it has created a valuable opportunity for our state — specifically our elected leaders — to elevate the issues that are important to us and protect our way of life.

Along with the rest of the country, West Virginia endured an economic setback caused by pandemic-related shutdowns. In response to this adversity, our state’s petrochemical manufacturers have led the way in powering West Virginia’s recovery. They helped West Virginia cope with the pandemic by temporarily transforming their operations to produce the products needed by front-line workers and other businesses.

This story holds true across the country as oil refineries and petrochemical companies continue to power economies and provide the kind of jobs that allow people to provide for their families.

Despite their timely and vital role in supporting the U.S. recovery, Congress is currently considering a series of tax increases that would unduly punish these industries that have a major presence here in West Virginia to raise revenue to pay for a massive $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend package. These misguided proposals will have devastating consequences nationwide and dramatically raise the cost of living for all Americans.

The demand for affordable and reliable energy never has been greater and only will continue to rise in the wake of the pandemic. Any policies that hike prices for oil refiners and petrochemical manufacturers should be viewed as a regressive tax on all American consumers, with lower-income families being hardest hit. Working families would have no other energy alternative and be forced to bear the brunt of higher costs at the gas pump and increased prices to heat their homes.

Increasing the price of American-made energy and plastics won’t just hurt consumers, it ultimately will benefit China’s efforts to ramp up its own global refining capabilities. Any move that forces the United States to rely on foreign energy sources makes China stronger and threatens our own energy security and stability. We simply cannot afford to undermine the competitiveness of American-refined energy in the name of ideologically driven tax proposals.

Fortunately for West Virginia, Sen. Joe Manchin has the opportunity, once again, to utilize his position as the Senate swing-vote to protect thousands of jobs and economic prosperity across our state. Now more than ever, we need his voice of reason to lift up our working communities and speak out to protect our way of life. We need Senator Manchin to tell his Senate colleagues that he will not stand for any new taxes on American-refined energy and American-made plastics. This is his ultimate moment in the spotlight, and West Virginians are counting on him to deliver.

(Delegate Zatezalo is a geologist and chairman of the West Virginia House Committee on Workforce Development.)

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