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Gov. Bob Wise's legacy

January 14, 2005

West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise said farewell to the Legislature on Wednesday, ending a term marred by revelations of an extramarital affair.

The affair cost Wise a chance to run for a second term, but does not mean that his term was without accomplishment.

On of the largest might be the PROMISE scholarship program, which gives any high-school student with a B average money for college.

The program was funded through the legalization of video poker machines, many of which were operating with no funds going to the state.

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Wise also took on the malpractice issue, successfully setting up a physician-run company to insure doctors after many firms stopped writing such policies.

During Wise's term, the state also took steps toward a high-technology future, using $215 million in state grants to leverage more than $1 billion in investment in projects such as the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, the Marshall University Biotechnology Development Center and the West Virginia High Technology Consortium.

The Wise administration also developed an insurance policy for children who weren't covered otherwise. Like the PROMISE program, it was a forward-looking move that should save money in the future by investing in young people now.

There are two lessons to be learned from Wise's term. The first is that if elected officials decide to put aside the game of scoring political points and concentrate instead on serving the people, great things can be accomplished.

The second is that people in public office can be tempted in an environment in which people are constantly deferring to them and telling them what they want to hear, as opposed to what they need to hear.

West Virginia still faces major problems, including everything mountaintop mining to persistent from fiscal problems. Wise may not have solved all of the problems, but he made major progress, for which he deserves much thanks.

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