ROCK SPRINGS – Wyoming interstates, the West Virginia governor’s coal request and the latest on health care are a few items U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., discussed on his trip to Sweetwater County on Friday.
The senator stopped in Rock Springs before heading to the River Festival in Green River.
Barrasso said there is a sense of urgency to work on a new health-care bill. In late July, the U.S. Senate defeated a measure that would have repealed much of the Affordable Health Care Act by a 51-49 vote.
“It’s not affordable,” he said. “We need much better than what we have.”
He said the goal is to begin debating the issue as soon as Congress gets back into session Sept. 5.
States need to be the ones finding solutions for health-care issues, he said.
Calling out evil
Barrasso said he opposes the actions of white supremacists at an Aug. 12 protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which resulted in a violent clash with counter-protestors and the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
“It’s not who we are as a country,” he said. “You have to call it like it is, and it is evil.”
Fair and equitable
Barrasso said he opposes West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal for the federal government to provide a $4.5 billion annual subsidy to burn coal from eastern producers. The plan would also provide a $15-per-ton subsidy to utilities that purchase eastern coal over those produced in western states like Wyoming.
The senator said coal needs to be “used in a way that’s fair and equitable.”
“We support the use of coal, we think coal should be strong, but you can’t favor one part of the country over the other,” he said. “And what Gov. Justice is proposing is not justice.”
Putting together an infrastructure plan is also on the senator’s radar.
Barrasso, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is gathering input to create an infrastructure plan.
The proposed legislation would create a new financing authority to help states and communities better collaborate with the private sector on rebuilding infrastructure projects, according to The Hill.
“The federal government has a significant responsibility for the interstates here,” he told the Rocket-Miner.
He added while he supports a private/public funding partnership in largely populated areas, he does not think it would work in places like Wyoming.
The volume of local traffic is not going to pay for it, he said.
“Infrastructure projects have to be done that fit the area,” he said.
“What works in New York doesn’t necessarily work in Sweetwater County.”
Whatever money Wyoming receives needs to go toward improving its highways, he said.