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Longtime delegate reflects on years in W.Va. Legislature

December 19, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Charles S. Trump IV said he is at peace with no longer being a delegate in the West Virginia House of Representatives.

He said he is looking forward to spending more time in the Eastern Panhandle and that he believes turnover in the Legislature is "healthier for the institution."

About a year ago, Trump decided not to run for re-election as delegate for the 51st District after serving 14 years and representing parts of Morgan, Berkeley and Hampshire counties.

He is looking forward to being home, he said, and since he missed a lot of his children's basketball games, he hopes to attend the games every week this year.

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Years of service

A Republican from Berkeley Springs, Trump was minority whip of the 72nd and 73rd Legislatures, which is the assistant to the minority leader, he said, and was minority leader for the 74th through the 77th Legislatures.

As a representative, Trump said he wanted to be part of the solution to the problems.

"But there is a part of politics I don't like," he said. "It's when politics get vitriolic and personal, and I think it's unnecessary, and I think it underestimates the electorate."

"I won't miss that part of it," he said. "Mistakes are made when politicians underestimate the electorate."

Trump said, "The vast majority of the West Virginia Legislature that serve are good people who want to make a difference."

He said he is proud to have been a participant.

One of the Legislature's accomplishments during his service and one that he is proud of is reforming the state's Workers Compensation system by eliminating the state-run monopoly, he said.

"It will be open to the private sector in 2008," Trump said.

Another was the "bipartisan effort" each year for the last 15 years to fund the state retirement system to reduce the pension debt.

Trump said the state had unfunded liability and the debt had been growing since the 1960s or 1970s.

"If it was left unresolved, it would have destroyed the state's financial credibility," he said.

The Legislature put in "an extra one-half billion dollars" in the fund this fiscal year, he said.

"Had it not been addressed, it would have caused major catastrophic problems," he said.

More to do

There are some things Trump said he wished he had accomplished during the last 14 years, and at the top of the list is the failure to get the U.S. 522 bypass around Berkeley Springs.

"We must have four lanes," he said.

He also wants further reductions in state taxes. "The good thing is that we held the line," and there were no increases, he said.

The state food tax has not been eliminated but has been decreased from 6 percent to 5 percent this year and will be reduced to 4 percent next year and to 3 percent the following year, he said.

He said things don't get done quickly and he had to learn to accept small steps in the right direction.

He said there are big changes in Morgan County and the Eastern Panhandle that are foreign to other representatives.

"A unique nature of problems exists here," he said.

Teachers, schools

Special attention is needed to schoolteachers' pay, Trump said, and there are enormous challenges in local school districts because we are not competitive, and teachers leave and work out of state to get a higher salary, he said.

"We need a locality pay here," he said.

Trump said he introduced a bill last February that he calls "Leave Our Levies Alone."

He said the school aid formula is driven by enrollment and that is derived by the number per 1,000 students for funding.

"The state subtracts the local levy and that's where the problem is. We need to freeze the amount the state can take back to the year 2000," he said.

Trump said this would give several millions of dollars to supplement salaries.

Nancy White, Morgan County Schools treasurer, said the Legislature sets the levy rate for every county, and instead of 98 percent of the revenues from property taxes that go to the state, perhaps it could be reduced to 90 percent.

"The additional revenue brought in by higher property taxes should stay in the counties to supplement teacher salaries and keep them in the Eastern Panhandle," she said.

Even though Trump will not be there to reintroduce the bill again, "all the senators and delegates in the Eastern Panhandle are leading the rest of the body along to get the bill passed," he said.

Looking ahead

Trump said he will continue to be active in county affairs. "I'm still a citizen of Morgan County and I have a voice, and I won't lose my voice."

Trump said he has no definite plans at this time to run for public office. "I am looking forward to being home," he said.

He said he will miss a lot of the people who he worked with who are "terribly committed and dedicated public servants."

House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, had said he's grown to consider Trump a friend as well as an able colleague.

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