Senator backs ARC

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Sen. George Voinovich is looking to continue the Appalachian Regional Commission, which some local leaders say could be very good news for our area.

Voinovich sponsored the bill on Thursday that would fund the ARC at $510.9 million over five years.

Since it’s inception, the ARC has fostered economic development and improving quality of life for the 23 million people who live and work in Appalachia.

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The proposed legislation creates the designation of economically “at risk” counties and provides an appropriate federal matching rate for ARC-funded projects in those counties.

The bill is cosponsored by Senator DeWine (R-OH), Senator Clinton (D-NY), Senator Warner (R-VA), Senator Lott (R-MS), Senator Burr (R-NC), Senator Allen (R-VA) and Senator Dole (R-NC).

The Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, on which Senator Voinovich serves, will consider the bill next week.

“Reauthorization of ARC is one of my top priorities.

Last month, I held a field hearing in Marietta to hear testimony on the impact of the last reauthorization of the ARC and to examine how ARC has made a difference in people’s lives,” Voinovich said in a written statement. “The reauthorization of ARC is necessary for the region to fully realize its economic potential and to build upon its already tremendous successes.”

There’s a lot of support for Voinovich’s claim. Since ARC’s inception, the region’s poverty rate has been cut in half (from 31 percent to 13 percent), the infant mortality rate has been reduced by two-thirds, and the percentage of adults with high school education has increased by over 70 percent.

Although it may be on a smaller scale, CAO assistant executive director Ralph Kline has seen the ARC have an effect on Lawrence County.

“The idea is to be able to bring the area out of isolation,” Kline said. “We usually have a project funded each year, sometimes it’s water and sewer projects, like one that’s being completed on Big Branch Road, we’ve used them at the (The Point) industrial park, we utilize those dollars quite a bit.”

Kline said he’s optimistic about the chances of the ARC being refunded, but with an increasingly tightening budget, he said it’s impossible to offer any guarantees.

“I think it’s been a pretty well-supported program, and I think it’s shown quite a bit of success,” Kline said. “But given the political climate, the Gulf Coast, I can’t said for sure. I wouldn’t want to become complacent now.”