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Wise promises Panhandle input

October 09, 2000

Wise promises Panhandle input



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town
photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer


Bob WiseMARTINSBURG, W.Va. - If he were elected West Virginia's governor, Bob Wise said he would work to secure more federal funding to preserve open space for areas like the Eastern Panhandle and put a full-time governor's representative in the Panhandle.

Responding to a citizen's question about how to save open space locally, Wise said he would support an "Internet contest" in which state citizens would vote for their favorite scenic view or sensitive area.

Funds could then be secured to protect those areas, Wise told about 30 people during a question and answer session at the Apollo Theater in Martinsburg Monday night.

Gov. Cecil Underwood once brought his cabinet to the Eastern Panhandle so his administration could learn about the needs of the growing area. Wise said that was a good idea, but he believes the governor's office needs a full-time presence here.

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Wise said he would hire a full-time Panhandle representative to help citizens deal with issues and concerns.

"You're not going to have to go to Charleston to catch the governor or the governor's staff," he said.

Among other issues relating to the Eastern Panhandle, Wise said he does not support a cap on the number of slot machines at the Charles Town Races and three other tracks in the state.

"My feeling is the marketplace will determine what the limit is," Wise said.

While some people have said expansion of gambling at the Charles Town Races is important to boost tourism in the Panhandle, others have been worried about more slot machines, especially in light of crime rate increases.

Wise described his plans to make the state more business friendly, how to keep young citizens from leaving the state, how to make prescriptions more affordable for consumers and how to improve public education.

Wise, who will face Underwood in the Nov. 7 general election, said he decided to run for governor because the state was "not moving forward enough, not moving fast enough."

The state has not shared in the booming economy the rest of the nation has experienced, which is partly illustrated by a drop in state wages compared to the rest of the nation, Wise said.

When Gov. Caperton left office four years ago, the state enjoyed a budget surplus. But next year, the state could be facing a budget deficit of $60 million or more, Wise said.

"That's on Governor Underwood's watch," he said.

Wise said he wants to improve the state's economic picture several ways, such as expanding the number of scholarships available to students to give them the education they will need to secure the jobs of the future.

He said he wants to increase the capital resources available to small businesses to give them the financial assistance they need to grow. Rapidly growing businesses in the state often outstrip the capital resources available to them, Wise said.

He also called for a "two-year tax holiday" for new small businesses to help them get through their first two years of business, often their most critical time period.

The three R's that make up a basic education need to make room for two more R's: responsibility and respect, Wise said.

"Some of our counties do that. I want to make that part of our state curriculum," he said.

To bring drug prescription costs down, Wise said the estimated 700,000 people who use prescriptions in the state should be viewed as a "buying pool." Then the state can go to pharmaceutical companies and demand that they give that buying pool the same reduced rates on drugs that they give to the federal government and health maintenance organizations.

Underwood is expected to appear at the Apollo Theatre next Tuesday night for a question and answer period.

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