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Republican takes another shot at incumbent Doyle

October 31, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Republican Bob Murto is lobbing criticism at incumbent Del. John Doyle in his quest to win the 57th House of Delegates seat in the West Virginia Legislature.

Doyle, who is running for his eighth two-year term and is fending off criticism from Murto about the state's poor business climate, said the state has made progress in areas like workers' compensation and unemployment.

The 57th delegate district includes Shepherdstown, Bolivar, Harpers Ferry, some of Bakerton and the Blue Ridge Mountain area.

Murto and Doyle will meet in the Nov. 7 general election to determine who gets the $15,000-a-year job.

Bob Murto

Murto said he is running because he is frustrated not only with the state's poor business climate, but also with the state's inability to get higher pay for Eastern Panhandle teachers.

Many candidates for state office are calling for higher pay for local teachers and when asked what his strategy would be, Murto said a "real strong message" of change will be sent to Charleston, W.Va., if he and other local House of Delegates Republican candidates Earl Wilbourne and Bob Adams get elected.

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Other candidates have complained how the state's business tax structure hurts business and Murto said the state's franchise tax kills small business.

Murto, a U.S. Postal Service retiree, said the state's poor business outlook was illustrated recently when Forbes magazine ranked West Virginia 49th in terms of its business climate.

"Thank God for Louisiana and Hurricane Katrina," said Murto, referring to the 50th-place ranking that Louisiana received in Forbes magazine.

The main reason for Louisiana's poor showing was the economic destruction waged by Hurricane Katrina, Murto said.

Murto is critical when he talks about his challenger, saying Doyle should have been able to do something by now about the state's business climate since Doyle is vice-chairperson of the House Finance Committee.

"It's time for him to go," said Murto, 58, of 887 Cherry Run Road, Harpers Ferry.

Murto said he is feeling good about his prospects for a win since he picked up 42 percent of the vote in his first unsuccessful attempt to unseat Doyle in 2004.

"That's pretty good the first time out. It's going to be a good race," Murto said.

John Doyle

Doyle said Murto is right about a lot of the problems facing West Virginia, but the Republican fails to recognize the progress that has been made, such as significant improvements in the state's unemployment rate, the number of high school seniors enrolling in college and the Legislature's work to improve the workers' compensation program and put it in its best financial condition in 30 years.

Workers' compensation helps workers pay for medical expenses when they are injured on the job. Employers pay so much per 100 employees to fund the system. The system was teetering on bankruptcy and premiums were high.

With the solutions that have been put in place, the Legislature can look to decrease premiums, said Doyle, 64, of Shepherdstown.

Doyle said he has long called for reform in the state's tax structure, and now Gov. Joe Manchin is considering either eliminating or significantly lowering the franchise tax and lowering the corporate income tax.

Doyle said the problem with Murto's reference to the Forbes magazine ranking is that it reflected conditions in the state years ago.

"The reforms we have made have not had time to take root. Once they do, you will see those statistics improve," Doyle said.

Regarding better pay for local teachers, Doyle said it's an issue lawmakers simply have to keep hammering at when they are in Charleston. Even the constituents of lawmakers who do not support the higher teacher pay need convincing, although Doyle said such work takes tact.

"You can't go down there and thumb your nose at Charleston and the rest of the state and expect them to work with you," Doyle said.

Doyle is a talk show host and also works in real estate.

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