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Capito makes a visit to the Panhandle

February 05, 2001

Capito makes a visit to the Panhandle



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The issue of preserving farmland arose again Monday as U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito spent her first full day in the Eastern Panhandle since being elected in November to represent the area.

Appearing before the Berkeley County Commission, Capito, R-2nd, heard from members of the audience and elected officials about their desire to have her give the issue considerable attention.

Capito said she was aware of the concern. At a retreat with other House Republicans last week, the issue was discussed repeatedly by her colleagues, she said.

"It was really a top-burner issue," she said in an interview.

During the commission meeting, she said Congress could change the inheritance tax so farmers could pass their land on to the next generation without being severely penalized by taxes. Other changes could be discussed, she said.

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"I feel we'll have some initiatives so we'll be able to do something," she said.

Commissioner Robert Burkhart said Congress should find ways to ease regulations on farmers. Burkhart, who has farmed most of his life, said it has become increasingly difficult. One day, seven different agencies visited his farm to check on activities, he said.

"If you want to preserve the farm, preserve the farmer," he said. "It's easier being a lawyer or a doctor."

State Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley, said money would be helpful.

"Any type of funding you could direct our way ... to buy up development rights" would be good, he said.

Capito said she will work hard for economic development in the Eastern Panhandle.

"I have an opportunity with a Republican president to push an agenda a little further on spot projects," she said.

But she agreed that growth must be weighed with such issues as loss of farmland to new residences.

"It is a tough balance," she said. "That's why we need to work with local officials. It shows the need for good future planning."

Capito said she will work to help finish an expanded W.Va. 9 and to learn more about the B&O Roundhouse project, which has been financed with large amounts of federal money. Capito is from Charleston, an area she represented in the West Virginia Legislature.

She said her assignment to a House subcommittee on transportation issues will help her work on road projects and on such issues as trying to convert the Air National Guard operation in Pikeside to handle C-5 aircraft instead of C-130s. Burkhart said the changeover would be good economically.

"We need all the help we can get there," he said. "It will add a lot of people."

She said she believes President Bush has gotten off to a good start and that some tax-cut plan will pass Congress this year.

"The argument there is not whether there will be one, but how much and who gets what," she said.

She said she expects a fight over faith-based organizations getting federal money to run social programs

"I would expect those to be funded, but there will be some controversy with that," she said.

Capito made other appearances, including meeting with Shepherd College President David Dunlop and touring the old Federal Courthouse and Post Office, which is to become an arts center in Martinsburg.

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