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Today's W.Va. primary

May 11, 2004

As a Maryland-based news- paper, The Herald-Mail does not endorse candidates in Pennsylvania and West Virginia election contests. That's because we believe that such input, coming from those who don't have to live with the result, wouldn't be appreciated or heeded.

However, we have no hesitation about urging voters to turn out in today's West Virginia primary. The issues facing the state are important as any in the last decade and require the best leaders the people can elect.

At the state level, voters will choose nominees for governor, in the wake of Gov. Bob Wise's decision not to seek a second term.

Wise's legacy includes creation of a funding mechanism for the state's PROMISE college scholarship program, progress on medical malpractice insurance woes and reduction of the size of government.

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But these achievements are only the first chapters of what must happen to keep the state moving forward. A poor choice could send the state back to the days of Arch Moore and revenue estimates based more on wishful thinking than on real economics.

Closer to home, voters will decide on a levy to improve and expand Berkeley County's park system, while Jefferson County voters will decide whether to approve a bond issue to ease school overcrowding there.

Other offices on the ballot include state lawmakers, county commissioners, school board members, county assessors and magistrates.

Some of these positions might seem obscure, with little relation to voters' daily lives - until their child has some difficulty in school. Or worse, perhaps the child or the parent will have to deal with the justice system. Then it will be vitally important who holds an office many didn't think twice about previously.

Finally, some young Americans are now in Iraq, trying to give those in that country the right to freely elect their leaders.

What does it say to those brave soldiers if the folks back home don't exercise the right they're risking their lives to give to others in a foreign land?

If only to honor their sacrifice, please vote today.




Hospital's financing option would save cash in long run



Washington County needs a new hospital and if it's located next to the Robinwood Medical Center, access shouldn't be a problem provided needed road upgrades are completed.

So said Robert Nicolay, a Maryland Health Care commissioner, who met with hospital officials in Baltimore on Friday

But Nicolay, who could make a recommendation to the full commission on the application for a Certificate of Need by the end of May, raised questions about the hospital's financing plan. As proposed, Nicolay said, it conflicts with current state policy.

We recommend that hospital officials make their best arguments for that plan, before the full commission if necessary.

The Herald-Mail has endorsed the hospital's move because we believe that it makes sense to locate the hospital near the county's greatest concentration of doctors and outpatient services.

The financing plan, although not in synch with current state policy, also makes sense, because it would save the facility - and those who pay the bills - money over the long term.

In April, Robert Grahe, the system's vice president of finance, described the two financing options.

The first, which does comply with state law, would include a rate increase of 5.9 percent when the project is complete.

The second would include a 3 percent rate increase when the project begins, followed by an additional 2 percent when it's completed.

Grahe said that the second option would save the hospital $62 million in interest payments and $47 million in costs that would otherwise be passed onto patients.

Should the patients of today be charged more for the hospital of tomorrow? Such things happen when today's taxpayers are billed for schools that will be built at some future time.

Unfortunately, unlike schools, which some don't use, it will be the rare citizen who doesn't need hospital care sooner or later. What state officials must decide is whether it's fair to ask patients to pay more now to save them money in the future.

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