Gubernatorial candidates weigh in on issues
Editor’s Note: The Tyler Star News recently posed 10 questions to the gubernatorial candidates in an effort to aid Tyler County voters in making an informed decision as they cast their ballots.
Below are their answers. Please note that all candidates were contacted, however, some did not respond.
The Special Primary Election to elect West Virginia’s next Governor will be held on SAturday, May 11 and 14 candidates will vie for the official nod from their respective parties.
On the Republican ticket are Clark Barnes, Betty Ireland, Mark A. Sorsaia, Larry V. Faircloth, Cliff Ellis, Mitch B. Carmichael, Ralph William Clark and Bill Maloney.
Vying for the Democratic nomination are Earl Ray Tomblin, Rick Thompson, Arne Moltis, Natalie Tennant, John Perdue, and Jeffrey V. Kessler.
What do you see as the most critical issue facing West Virginians in the next ten years?
TOMBLIN: I think we must do everything we can to grow West Virginia’s economy and responsibly lower taxes. We must attract new businesses to the state. I am excited that, out of many potential sites across the country, Macy’s chose to locate a national distribution center here in the Eastern Panhandle. This will create over a thousand jobs, and I will continue working to attract projects like this and encourage existing companies such as Toyota to expand even more. We’ve also seen Orrick expand in Wheeling and Alcon in Huntington as companies realize West Virginia offers a stable economy and business-friendly climate.
MOLTIS: The most critical issues for the next 10 years is buying back the John Amos Electric Power Plant because of grand theft we are losing $5 million a day, $150 million a month and 2 billion a year. We will pay fair market value for John Amos and return it to a new state company West Virginia Electric Power. We cannot afford to lose over $2 billion a year because of grand theft and an inept state political leadership that does not even see billions being stolen under their noses. They are mostly old guys who need to be retired and given a rocking chair.
SORSAIA: West Virginia’s economy is our most challenging issue. Unemployment continues to go up along with those on government assistance. Currently, our state’s economy is becoming increasingly stagnated. This problem can only be addressed by changing our state’s anti-business, regressive tax structure along with reducing the size of government. If we want to get serious about creating jobs and helping working families we must get government out of the way immediately because government does not create anything, it merely provides a service.
FAIRCLOTH: Jobs. West Virginia is the only state to have lost population in the last 60 years. We have fewer people now than we did in 1950. We cannot keep families together if our children must leave to find work and livelihoods.
CARMICHAEL: Jobs and business climate is the most critical issue. West Virginia needs to create an environment that will enable the private sector to flourish.
KESSLER: The most critical issue is creating more employment and job opportunities for our young people so they no longer have to leave the State. West Virginia spends 60 percent of its general revenue budget educating our children, only for them to leave the state for better opportunities which is a terrible waste of tax dollars and terrible loss of our most valuable resource – our children.
MALONEY: The most critical issue facing West Virginia is jobs. West Virginia is a great place to raise a family, but we need to keep the family here, not in Charlotte or Florida. To create jobs, we need to fix our business climate. To do that, we need to fix our regressive tax structure, clean up our courts, stop lawsuit abuse, and control government spending in Charleston.
How does the introduction of “green technology” as a means of creating new jobs impact our state? Is it beneficial or detrimental?Should state government extend tax breaks to small businesses who want to implement green technology?
TOMBLIN: I support expanding our economy in as many ways as possible, and green jobs and businesses are one way to do that. I also, however, support our traditional manufacturing sectors and coal industry and will protect them as well.
MOLTIS: I support coal 100 percent but also green tecnology. We should make it easy for homeowners who want to convert their house to solar power, simply go to Lowes and a technicial will install it at a reasonable price.
SORSAIA: While green technology sounds good on the surface, many believe it is a big government power grab which could ultimately end up hurting our energy sector here in West Virginia. The bottom line is coal is our national energy here in the mountain state. I support the expansion of our currently existing coal industry. I do not support further regulations of coal which green technology would impose. I believe any mining operation should be carried out in a safe and responsible manner but the repercussions of government intrusion into our state’s energy industry will ultimately destroy jobs and working families. If I am elected Governor, I will passionately fight the radical power grab by the EPA.
FAIRCLOTH: I am all for alternative energy technology as long as there is a market for it. Half of electric power generation is from coal. When there is a market demand for solar, nuclear and wind and other forms of energy, that can complement coal.
CARMICHEAL: Green technology should be required to submit to the same free market requirments as an other energy resource or technology. In my view, taxpayers should not subsidize green alternatives.
KESSLER: Green technologies that create job opportunities are an important part of our State’s energy portfolio. Such technologies can complement our existing coal and natural gas resources. Tax breaks should only be given when the benefit to the State as a whole exceed the cost of the tax break given to the individual taxpayer or business.
MALONEY: We need to examine every energy source found in our state, because all can contribute to prosperity in West Virginia. I don’t support picking winners and losers, however.
How would you create more jobs in West Virginia?
TOMBLIN: If there is anything that West Virginia needs, it is a state government that fosters private sector job creation. And businesses create jobs when there is a good business climate. I have a proven track record of making West Virginia a better place to do business. I led the fight to stop the flight of doctors from West Virginia. We reformed our medical malpractice and insurance industry and today, West Virginia is a great place for doctors. I have consistently fostered policies designed to help businesses – from our workers’ compensation reform to tax reform to balancing the budget, I have worked diligently to remove the barriers to being a successful business in West Virginia. There are several tangible steps we can do to improve the business climate, including reducing and eliminating the business franchise tax, which we are on track to doing in 2014.
MOLTIS: I will create more jobs by getting John Amos Electric Plant back by giving fair market value price to AEP and also build another large power plant between wheeling and the eastern panhandle. This will put west virginia union workers to work at John Amos and also the new large power plant between wheeling and eastern panhandle. Then I will sell the extra electricity to surrouding states. From the profits billions will go to the general fund which will increase road building and spending on uninsured people and the state will pay for their doctor visits.
SORSAIA: In order to create more jobs here in West Virginia we must dramatically cut taxes along with reducing the size of government. One of my first proposals in doing both of these is too completely, not partially, eliminate the food, business franchise and corporate net income taxes because I believe in the future of small businesses which are the backbone of our economy. The second priority is to get serious about cutting waste in Charleston. As Governor, I would impose an immediate hiring freeze on all new state workers to free up much needed funds. The bottom line is government is inefficient by nature and West Virginia has a growing government problem. In fact, government is outgrowing the private sector. Remember, the government does not create anything, it provides a service. I would institute a total review on government wasteful spending and immediately begin cutting those areas. I would eliminate needless reporting requirements on all small businesses. I would also push for right-to-work legislation that would guarantee small businesses and employers would have a choice for free-market competition.
FAIRCLOTH: Lower taxes, undo burdensome government regulation, improve our schools so graduates can compete for jobs, stop drug trafficking that infests our workforce and destroys families.
CARMICHAEL: Private sector jobs will be created by a.) Reforming tax structure to reduce corporate net income tax, eliminate business franchise tax, and eliminate tax on business equipment.; and b.) Civil justice reform by non-partisan judicial elections with automatic right of appeal.
KESSLER: We need to aggressively market West Virginia’s positive attributes such as the low unemployment/workers compensation tax rates, abundant energy resources, low cost of living and quality of life.
MALONEY: We need to fix our state’s regressive tax structure, clean up our court system, and cut wasteful government spending. The inventory tax, the B&O tax, and the personal property tax really a capital equipment tax all have an incredibly negative effect on business, and they need to go.
With Congress proposing slashing funding for the Pell Grant program, how will West Virginia college students be affected and what do you propose to help bolster higher education in the state?
TOMBLIN: I am working with our colleges and universities to keep tuition as low as possible in West Virginia. In addition, I have fought for many years to make sure that Community and Technical Colleges have a significant presence in West Virginia due to the many positive attributes that they can have for our State. Many of the jobs of the future will require vocational training and skills. I will continue to forge policies that focus on making sure that our education system, at all levels, is designed to train our young people to be positive economic forces.
MOLTIS: The state will help college students as much as possible because I spent eight years in college and have a teaching degree.
SORSAIA: West Virginia’s educational system has lost focus on the students and ultimately become a public jobs program. West Virginia’s leaders must address the issue of low college graduation rates by driving the focus towards our public schools. In reality, many of our high school graduates are not ready for college because they are lacking the necessary skills to be successful in post-secondary education. This must change in order to see positive results in our higher education system. West Virginia’s state educational system, like many bureaucracies, has simply gone off mission. My administration would make sure our focus is less on administrative and regulatory control in classrooms and more on achievement through teachers. Influence from state government must be reduced. My administration would drive the focus towards more local control among the schools and community, especially in bettering our students in critical subjects such as Math, Science and English which will equip them for college scholarships.
FAIRCLOTH: Forge partnerships with prospective employers so students can learn skills that put them to work upon completing their degree. I am a big proponent of vocational and technical education.
CARMICHAEL : Funding for higher ed is the seedcorn for prosperity of future generations. We must provide the means for underpriveleged students to obtain the means to lift themselves from the cycle of poverty. I propose increased funding for state higher education grants.
KESSLER: I will maintain and increase funding for State supported “needs” based grant programs. Also, I will continue the “merit based” Promise Scholarship.
MALONEY: We need to challenge our students, and give West Virginia universities a reputation of producing the highest quality workforce. We can’t grow our economy and create jobs without it. But if our secondary education system is failing our students and making them unable to compete, we need to fix it. Accountability and parental control is the best strategy.
The economic potential of the Marcellus Shale Gas Field could be enormous. How does the state benefit from gas production on the Marcellus site? What are the negatives associated with drilling there?
TOMBLIN: I do support natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Its potential for job and economic growth is tremendous; however, we must do it in a responsible manner. When the legislature failed to pass comprehensive Marcellus Shale legislation I asked Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman to craft regulations that protect our environment while ensuring that no opportunities for growth pass West Virginia by in the short term. Marcellus Shale extraction also has the possibility to revitalize manufacturing in West Virginia, and we must work to create those good paying jobs as well.
MOLTIS: I will not depend solely on Marcelus Shale because it has been shown it poisons tap water with oils and harmful chemicals.
SORSAIA: The vast Marcellus Shale gas deposits in West Virginia can become a major force in our states future economic development. Our natural gas reserves can play a major role in meeting our nation’s growing energy demands. Marcellus Shale will provide West Virginia an opportunity for tremendous revenues. Historically in West Virginia, mineral rights have been severed from the surface owner’s rights. There are many surface owners that are being hurt by the development of this resource. I am committed to a legislative agenda that would compensate the surface owners for the burdens they will have to bear in the development of this resource. Government must not make the decisions, West Virginian’s should. With that said we must protect our surface owners in this process but we must make sure Marcellus Shale is developed sooner than later because it will create jobs and help make West Virginia a national leader in energy.
FAIRCLOTH: These energy reserves are a tremendous opportunity for West Virginia. I encourage aggressive exploration, but by also respecting the rights to property owners and the environment. As Governor, I will push legislation to protect landowners, water systems, rivers and streams.
CARMICHAEL: Gas drilling ans exploration will be a vital component of economic development and progress in West Virginia. As a state, we must protect water supplies and insure that surface owners rights are insured.
KESSLER: The biggest negative associated with drilling in the Marcellus Shale is the lack of adequate regulation and oversight which we are currently experiencing in West Virginia. We need to ensure that the WV Department of Environmental Protection is adequately funded and staffed to protect the environment and particularly the water resources of this State. While this activity poses environmental challenges it also provides a unique opportunity to create real wealth in this State. That’s why I proposed the WV Future Fund, a 25 percent endowment fund on the severance tax collected from natural gas so that money can be saved and invested in West Virginia’s future.
MALONEY: The Marcellus Shale presents the possibility for real prosperity for our state. When I’m governor, we’ll drill. We certainly need reasonable regulation, much of which we already have. The industry doesn’t oppose reasonable regulation; rather they simply want to know the rules. I oppose any moratorium on drilling.
What is your position on taxpayer funded abortion services?
TOMBLIN: I don’t believe that’s an appropriate use of public funds.
MOLTIS: I am a Christian, pro-life and oppose abortions. I am pro-life and oppose the return of the death penalty which is unchristian, inhumane punishment and the court system gets emotion mixed into the sentence.
SORSAIA: I am 100 percent pro-life. I believe that in a struggling economy, West Virginia residents should not be asked to pay for something that the overwhelmingly majority is opposed to. As Governor, I will completely eliminate taxpayer funding for abortion. It is morally wrong and simply bad for our state’s economy.
FAIRCLOTH: I am pro-life and earned the endorsement of West Virginians for Life during my 24 year legislative career. No tax dollars will go to provide abortions when I am governor.
CARMICHAEL: I am 100 percent pro-life. I do not support public funding of abortions.
KESSLER: I do not believe that tax dollars should be used to fund abortion.
MALONEY: I’m 100 percent pro-life, period.
Does West Virginia need more handgun reciprocity with other states?
TOMBLIN: I firmly support our right to bear arms and was endorsed by the National Rifle Association. I will work to protect those rights and expand them where appropriate. In 2007 I helped pass a bill that increased reciprocity rights.
MOLTIS: The current handgun laws are fine.
SORSAIA: Gun ownership in West Virginia is not only a guaranteed right by the United States Constitution; it is a healthy and proud tradition. Since the Attorney General’s office took over the granting of handgun reciprocity West Virginia has expanded its relationship with other states but has fallen short in becoming a national leader in reciprocity agreements. West Virginia should become that national leader in expanded handgun reciprocity because responsible law abiding citizens who own a firearm should feel protected when they are traveling, especially with their families.
FAIRCLOTH: I have an A rating from the NRA and earned their endorsement over 12 terms in the House of Delegates. I am in lockstep with the NRA on Second Amendment protections.
CARMICHAEL: I have a 100 percent pro nra voting record in the legislature. I suuport the legal ownership of guns.
KESSLER: Yes, I would broaden West Virginia’s reciprocity laws. I have been recognized with an A+ rating from the NRA during my most recent senatorial campaign. Since that time I have championed numerous other Second Amendment issues such as the Castle Doctrine and the Bloomberg bill to protect the rights of West Virginia’s lawful gun owners.
MALONEY: I’m 100 percent pro-Second Amendment and support the right of West Virginians to carry handguns. I’d certainly support making it easier and more convenient for West Virginians to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Should The DNR expand hunting season in the state, why or why not?
TOMBLIN: Hunting is a significant economic force in West Virginia. I have confidence in our wildlife experts to determine the appropriate seasons and regions for West Virginia’s hunting activities. I will continue to work to ensure more land is opened to hunters and in 2005 helped secure legislation that ensures there is not a net loss of habitat land acreage available for hunting and shooting.
MOLTIS: That’s up to the DNR and I trust their judgement
SORSAIA: Many states around us have some sort of an expanded hunting season whether that is Sunday hunting, an expanded fall deer season, etc. Each year West Virginia receives a huge economic boost due to the large number of in state and out of state hunters that participate in our game seasons. It only makes sense from an economical and traditional standpoint to expand all hunting seasons here in the Mountain State. My administration would proudly support this.
FAIRCLOTH: I would support expansion of hunting season provided individual communities in the state choose not to limit it.
CARMICHAEL: I support the expansion of turkey season.
KESSLER: I would not change the current hunting season unless supported by DNR biologists to ensure appropriate wildlife populations and protections.
MALONEY: I strongly support hunting in our state, and I’m a sportsman, myself. But Charleston shouldn’t be in the business overruling counties if that’s the decision they’ve made. We should leave these decisions to the counties and to the people.
What is the outlook for the future of the state’s budget?
TOMBLIN: We have a budget surplus and significant revenues in our Rainy Day Fund. We have been able to responsibly cut taxes, including the regressive food tax that disproportionately affects seniors and the poor. Because of our solid financial position, I was able to veto the Legislature’s proposal to increase DMV fees by millions of dollars.
During my career in public service, I have proven that I have the ability to responsibly manage the state budget and build consensus among different groups. We have addressed many of West Virginia’s difficult issues, including workers’ compensation and many unfunded liabilities.
West Virginia is well positioned for the future, and I will work tirelessly to take advantage of our opportunities for more jobs and lower taxes.
MOLTIS: When we do what I propose, get back John Amos Powerplant and buld another power plant in the north the state Budget has a great future with plenty of money. We will be the envy of other states.
SORSAIA: West Virginia will be facing a budget shortfall soon mainly due to unfunded liabilities. Many programs that currently exist within our state government are putting a strain on working families. As I have said before, as a tough prosecutor I will go after the big government waste and begin cutting these areas immediately to free up money. West Virginia residents keep more money in their pocket when the size of government is reduced. I would also design a plan that would provide incentives to existing state employees so they would not retire before 65 because West Virginia needs to secure its most talented workers.
FAIRCOTH: As Governor I will comply with the Constitution to limit unclassified spending. The state is in gross violation of the law.
CARMICHAEL: The long-term budget projections are for increased deficits. The proposals that I offer in the gubernatorial campaign will generate increased jobs and provide opportunities for our citizens. This will enable the West Virginia budget to become balanced and responsible.
KESSLER: The prospects for the State’s budget under my leadership as Governor are excellent! West Virginia is poised for a breakout decade and with the right leadership, courage and vision we can take this State to the next level. I believe the energy sector, particularly the Marcellus Shale boon, will create a wealth of opportunities for citizens of this State if done correctly. As I mentioned earlier, my WV Future Fund proposal will create a savings account that will permit us to diversify our economy and permit us to provide tax relief to our citizens and business.
MALONEY: The State Legislature continues to spend like drunken sailors, even as the skyrocketing costs of Obamacare and public retirement benefits loom over the horizon. We need to have a state budget that focuses on job creation. If any law, tax, regulation or program is costing us jobs, we need to look at eliminating or changing it.
What should our policy for legalized gambling be in the future?
TOMBLIN: Gaming provides thousands of jobs for West Virginians and millions for our economy, including programs for seniors, tourism and education. I believe we need to help our four tracks stay competitive with surrounding states and protect that significant economic force.
MOLTIS: Right now the gaming industry has more competition from other states and it needsfor West Virginia to help it when needed. The future for the gaming industry looks very good.
SORSAIA: As a prosecutor I deal with the out of control drug addiction that is a continual problem here in West Virginia. I see the horrible side effects every day. However, there are other addictions which badly harm the fabric of society, namely the family. One of these is gambling. I do not believe West Virginia needs to become little Las Vegas of the Appalachia’s. I believe there are better alternatives to revenue building here in the state. My administration would not support the expansion of gambling because I believe we can build our economy in a more honest, ethical and valued approach.
FAIRCLOTH: I oppose expansion of gambling.
CARMICHAEL: I have an outspoken record of opposition to gambling in West Virginia.
KESSLER: We should begin to wean ourselves away from our dependency on legalized gambling; however, in the meantime, proceeds from such activities should continue to be directed toward programs that help build our infrastructure and schools, provide college scholarships and expand services to our senior citizens.
MALONEY: There are many social problems with gambling. I recognize that gambling is a problem for many individuals and families. As a business person, I don’t believe we should build a state budget on gambling revenue. We need to diversify our economy so that there are other options. The problem here is more about our complicated tax system than anything else. We need to look at whether our tax system is helping to grow jobs or not.