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Governor hopefuls take part in debate

March 26, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Six of the Republican gubernatorial candidates said Thursday night that reducing the size of state government is important and will help make other improvements in the state possible.

At a debate at the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds, candidates Rob Capehart, Larry Faircloth, Doug McKinney, Dan Moore, Richard Robb and Monty Warner answered questions from a group of panelists for a little more than an hour.

Topics included education, jobs, gambling, taxes and the state budget.

Chris Strovel, with Martinsburg radio station WEPM, asked the candidates what role cutting the state's payroll via layoffs and attrition, tax increases and expanding gambling would play in their first budget proposal.

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Only Robb, the mayor of South Charleston, W.Va., said he supports local initiatives on gambling. Later, after the other candidates pointed out that difference, Robb said he previously supported a gambling effort in another part of the state because it brought in hundreds of jobs.

Robb said he would support reducing the payroll attrition and layoffs if necessary. He also said he supports a higher tax on cigarettes.

Faircloth, a Berkeley County real estate agent and member of the House of Delegates since 1980, said he is against gambling and would not propose any new taxes.

Faircloth supports eliminating some state government positions and reducing the number of state-owned cars.

Warner, a small-business owner from Charleston, W.Va., agreed and said he would implement mandatory and forced retirements for certain state employees.

Capehart, who lives in Wheeling, W.Va., said that when Gov. Cecil Underwood left office four years ago, his budget was $17 million. He said it is now nearly $40 million under Democratic Gov. Bob Wise, who is not seeking re-election.

While tax increases are not needed, the tax system, which Capehart said is rooted in the 1860s and 1930s, needs to be reformed, he said.

Moore, a businessman from Charleston, said frivolous spending needs to be reduced. Throughout the debate he also stressed the need to create jobs.

McKinley, a doctor from Harrison County, W.Va., said that in their first year state employees receive 15 vacation days, 18 sick days and 12 or 14 paid holidays. Those benefits should be more in line with what is offered in the private sector, he said.

McKinley said he also supports adding either a 3- or 5-cent tax on cans and bottles of beer and a comparable rate on bottles of liquor. A 3-cent tax would generate $16 million, while a 5-cent tax would create $25 million, which he said could be used to help plug the Medicaid gap.

In other remarks:

  • Capehart, who previously served as secretary of Tax and Revenue under Underwood and now is a professor at Marshall University, said the focus of education needs to change. All students should know how to read and write effectively and think critically.

  • Faircloth said his 24 years in the Legislature means he understands how the government works and that the Eastern Panhandle has a chance to send a governor to Charleston. He added that the rest of the state should experience growth like that seen in the Panhandle.

  • McKinley said he would create a tourism plan for the state that will "knock your socks off" and make the state a popular tourism destination for the rich. Also, he said the prevailing wage rate set by unions needs to be a reasonable rate. It is so high, he said, that four schools could be built for what is paid now to build three.

  • Moore said the sanctity of marriage must be preserved, students should be able to worship and pray as they see fit and communities must be protected from gambling.

  • Robb, whose wife is a teacher, said vouchers should be offered to parents who want their children to attend a private school. He added that he favors funding for pre-kindergarten programs.

  • Warner mentioned several times the need to eliminate "corruption and cronyism" that he feels is prevalent in state government. He also said abortion is "killing our state" and that local governments are in the best position to assess what the area and its citizens need.
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