The Pocahontas Times and Allegheny Mountain Radio hosted a forum for House of Delegates District 43 candidates on Monday evening. Democratic candidates William Hartman and Denise Campbell, and Republican candidates Charles Kinnison and Mary Boltz attended the forum.
During the forum, candidates answered questions on a number of topics. For each question, the first respondent had two minutes; the other candidates had one minute to respond; followed by a one-minute additional comment by the first respondent. The first two questions and responses follow.
See a video of the forum in its entirety at the Video page of this website
Question 1: Governor Tomblin cut the budget for senior centers and programs, that had passed by the Legislature, from $2.2 million to $1 million. Should the Legislature have overridden the veto and, if so, what other programs should have been cut?
Kinnison: Obviously something would need to be done. We need to look at tax structure for seniors, if we can reduce the tax burden by increasing the homestead exemption. Also, with the version of cap and trade that went through our Legislature, we see an increase in utility costs that are passed on to the individual. Of course, that includes seniors as well. There’s different ways that we could help, as far as helping the seniors. Obviously, we need to focus on maintaining the avenue of revenue to support the programs and our senior centers, especially Meals on Wheels and different programs that are essential. What else could we cut instead? That’s something that you’d have to look at. My suggestion would be to look a the taxes.
Campbell: I did not agree with the cut that our governor made. In the House of Delegates, we tried to put money back in for seniors, because we know, with us being the second-oldest, age-wise, in the country – that it’s only a given that we need more funds to help support the seniors, who supported us all those years while they were working and taking care of us. I think it’s a disgrace if we do not take care of our seniors. Also, I think that we need to focus on being sure – because we know those numbers are only going to grow in the next 10 to 15 years – we need to be sure that we are very diligent and very mindful at looking at the programs that are needed for seniors. The expansion of Medicaid waiver is very, very important. I don’t ever want to look a senior in the eye and tell them, ‘guess what – you’re not getting Meals on Wheels today’ and that they’re not going to have that one and only social contact that they have one day – that we take that away from them. In rural areas, having the Meals on Wheels program is so vital. Programs to be cut – that takes a lot of research. I know there was a lot of people who made mention about the money that was given to the racing industry and things like that. They would have liked to have seen that money proportioned somewhere else. However, the governor has big decisions that he has to make, because we know a lot of our funding came through the racing industry and through the lottery, and those funds have dropped considerably. But I definitely support seniors and will never vote to cut programs for seniors.
Boltz: The first thing we should look at is our tax structure. The tax structure is really hurting people in the State of West Virginia. We could also help by lowering corporate tax, which would improve people coming in, small businesses. What I would cut? You could go down the list and I would take a small percentage out of a lot of different things. I know, for instance, in Randolph County, we have the Forest Festival. They receive $43,000 a year in funding. We could cut that back a small amount. I know that everybody needs the money. Whenever you’re taking from one place, you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s a hard decision to do. I know what it’s like to have a senior family. My grandma’s 110 years old. My mom and dad take care of her. Eventually I’ll be taking care of my mom and dad. It is hard when you have to take from a senior citizen and tell them the funding just isn’t there. It’s not right. They’ve taken care of us all these years. We really need to think about what we’re doing whenever we cut funding for any senior program. More and more seniors are going out in the workforce and working and it’s not fair to them to have to go back to work in order to support themselves.
Hartman: The House was very upset with the cut, particularly the in-home care that was affected. I think that’s probably one of the most effective programs and I think you’re going to see an expansion of that this year. With in-home care, we can allow senirs to stay in their homes and not be institutionalized and save a tremendous amount of money. As far as what we would cut to save that million dollars – everybody was reduced seven-and-a-half percent and there were other vetoes that were involved. Overriding a veto is a unique thing and I think the leadership just felt it was not going to be effective to attempt to override it. The support that we have for our seniors around the state – the Meals on Wheels is very, very important. In fact, I had lunch one day this week at the senior center in Green Bank. It’s full every day in Green Bank. The Meals on Wheels and the vehicles that they have to deliver those meals and keep them hot, and the social contact they get when they deliver the meals, I think is very important. One thing we have to concentrate on is the in-home care program and make sure we can expand that and keep seniors in their homes, rather than an institution of some kind.
Kinnison: I absolutely support the senior programs and I was just thinking, as far as anything else to cut – there’s a lot of top-heaviness in our government in West Virginia, and that might be a place to look. But I know it’s always tough decisions when it comes to cutting.
Question 2: What would you do, if elected, to improve broadband service in Pocahontas County?
Campbell: I’ve been working on that while I’ve been in office for the past four years and it’s a very important issue. It’s important to be able to have broadband services. I’ve had several conversations with Frontier and Citynet and was actually at the summit that they had in Green Bank. I think it’s very important that we support, as a state, that we focus on broadband in rural areas, because a lot of people, whenever they come to our area, they are surprised, when they come to visit at Snowshoe and places like that – they expect to have their phone out and to be able to connect to the rest of the world. For us in rural West Virginia, we shouldn’t have to take a second seat to have the ability to communicate. Because a lot of our houses are quite a distance away from someone who would live in a more city-like environment, I know that does cause the cost to go up. But I think we have a right to have communication and to be able to communicate with others. That’s what is expected. If we want businesses to come to our areas, that is the minimum that we ned is to be able to have that broadband, here for our state and our county.
Boltz: There is a need for the broadband. I also think that we could work with Frontier and Verizon and a few of the other Internet providers and work with them in order to get it achieved. I see no problem why we cannot achieve that. I know there is a structural problem with it being a rural area, but I see no reason why it’s not achievable and accessible. In order to bring in jobs, we do need the broadband. A lot of businesses won’t come, due to the fact that they don’t have access. It’s part of the infrastructure and technology that’s needed for some of the larger companies with the good-paying jobs, to come to the state.
Hartman: I’ve worked on broadband for a number of years, probably five years. I’ve worked very closely with the folks at Green Bank. We had a project called the West Virginia runner. It’s really a shame, that with a telescope that they have at Green Bank, they had to drive the CD that had the information on it, gathered from the telescope, up to Morgantown to the university. That’s been overcome, but I’m really upset the way the money was spent, the sequester money. That kind of overpowered the initiative that we had going with the West Virginia runner. There has been a lot of improvement. But as we travel around the state on this listening tour for businesses, we were in Petersburg two weeks ago and that was the number one – other than workforce – the number one complaint that the folks over there had. But it can be overcome. Hardy County, Hardy County Communications has probably the best broadband in the state. So, it is possible. It is complicated. It’s expensive. Frontier has taken a lot of heat and I think a lot of it may be well-deserved. But I think they’re working very hard on it. But we cannot let our guard down. We have to continue to be very forceful and not take no for an answer, as we continue to develop.
Kinnison: Broadband is infrastructure. It’s just as important as roadways, water or sewer, your telephone, your power. We need broadband to be able to work with companies and be able to provide the service to them, as well as to the residents. How I would go about that or how I would work toward that goal – I would work with development authorities; I would work with the county governments and municipalities and joining together, we can put pressure on and we can make it happen. Then, of course, the more companies that you can get involved that have an interest in it, the more headway I believe we can make.
Campbell: The big thing I would like to emphasize is being able to work together and being able to be respectful to one another. But having the competition – I think it’s really helpful knowing that there’s not just one organization that you have to work with. That you actually bring in more opportunities and more broadband services. I think when you have a competitive environment, that tends to make things work a lot faster.