The Daily Mail editorial board will be meeting with candidates in the 4th and 8th District state Senate races. We’ll live blog the discussion beginning at 11 a.m.
In the 4th District, Democratic nominee and two-term Jackson County Sheriff Mike Bright and Republican nominee Delegate Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, are running for Sen. Karen Facemyer’s, R-Jackson, seat in the Senate. Facemyer decided not to run for re-election this year.
The 8th District was reshaped during last year’s redistricting. Republican Chris Walters of Nitro and Democrat Joshua Martin of Poca are vying to be the Putnam County representative in the Kanawha/Putnam district. Both men are the sons of current members of the House of Delegates. Walters is the son of Kanawha County Republican Delegate Ron Walters and Martin is the son of late Delegate Dale Martin and Delegate Helen Martin, both D-Putnam.
We’ve hit our ending time. Thanks for joining us and we’ll be back tomorrow with an Attorney General candidate forum.
Bright: Agreed cost savings that should be implemented immediately like Walters said, and agreed about getting control to the local level. “One criticism: The classroom teachers had little input in the entire audit, and I think that was an oversight or mistake on whoever organized that. I think the actual classroom teachers, and people who have one on one contact with children should be in there.”
Martin: Agreed on the centralization. Said his son was in 5th grade in Poca and can see his son’s teacher isn’t given flexibility to address his specific educational needs. He’s strong in some areas, but not in others. “I’m not so much teaching to a test to get that. Me as a parent, I see where my kid gets it. I know when he gets math, I know when he’s getting the comprehension lesson out of the reading assignment. That’s where I’m concerned as a parent, Is my child getting what he needs from the school?”
Carmichael: Said it’s not just about cutting costs, but improving education. On hiring a third party to draw up a response: “I think it is a travesty that the governor and school board has to outsource the management of this agency.” Central point of audit was that education is too centralized, not sure that state control is the panacea it worked out to be. “I think the primary emphasis of that audit is the return of the control of the education of our children to the local entities. I want to do everything I can to devolve centralization back to our local systems. The teachers are phenomenal, it’s the administrators and the centralization that are the problem.”
Walters: Reform purchasing, combine the RESAs. We need to work on our RFPs, when people go to purchase, we’re messing those up left and right in this state. Converting state buses to natural gas would be ag reat idea. “From the audit, there are multiple, multiple ways we can go in and should be enacted immediately.”
Walters: I would be for raising the retirement age for new hires. Our state simply can afford, with the revenue, to make promises it can’t keep.
Bright: “Whatever retirement system they hired under, I don’t think you can change that…When they hired in, with the benefit package and everything they got, made it somewhat comparable to employees in the private sector.” But said private sector employees are now losing benefits, so it can be considered. “I am willing to look at the future and benefits and the retirement age…but only new hires”
Martin: “Being a former state employee, I would disagree with raising the retirement age for state employee. As a state employee, you are typically making far less than what your private contemporary would be making. I especially know that to be true at the Attorney General’s office.” Said he was making 2/3 what a private firm attorney would make. “If you want good teachers, if you want good employees then you have to give them a reason to be there. If you don’t you’re going to have substandard services. If you’re not going to pay them what you pay in the private sector, you have to give them something else.” Pointed out that many workers work beyond retirement eligibility. Said a lot of people in state government have been there a long time, and they work hard, are hard-working public servants who don’t deserve being bad mouthed. “They came in early, they left late, they gave everything they had to the state, and because they were state employees, they were looked down upon.” Said current promises must be kept, said you could stagger upward for new employees.
Carmichael: Said they need to raise the retirement age for state employees. “It is ridiculous…We need to raise the retirement age to a corresponding level of the private sector.”
Question: Public retirement is often available before private sector. As a legislator, what would you do about state retirement age?
Bright: Said circuit judges retiring but being reelected was wrong, and it was good that Legislature closed that loophole. But also think that it is beneficial to bring experienced, retired teachers back in some instances. But when someone in a high profile, high paying jobs where people are brought back, “as Josh said, that doesn’t pass the smell test. That shouldn’t be allowed to go on.”
Martin: “When you’re dealing with public money, anytime there’s something that doesn’t pass the smell test, then that is something that is probably wrong.” Many publicized cases have drawn public ire, said there should be “some type of offset system to where the public money is not being abused, or at least that it removes the appearance of impropriety.”
Carmichael: In some cases, it could be a cost savings to the state. (needing retired people to come back to assist) We have to look at those instances and the parameters around it, but we do need to tighten those loopholes. But to game the retirement system in order to come back, that is wrong, and I want to put restrictions on it.
Walters: If people are coming back in around it, we need to look at cutting the red tape, to look at if they do want to come back, there needs to be something changed to alter the benefit coming out in the end.
New question about double-dipping where people on pensions go back under contract – what do you think should be done?
Walters: “There’s 100 questions that have not been asked yet….until those questions get answered, I can be for something where there’s not much light shed on it.”
Carmichael: “Difficult question, but can say “The Obama health care program is a disaster. It’s always easy to say I’m going to expand benefits…but it does nothing to bend cost curve. The only thing this is going to do at all is reduce the reimbursement doctors receive from Medicaid, which could end up causing fewer services.”
Martin: Agreed with Bright. “If you’re going to do something, you’ve got to find a way to pay for it. If we can’t, we shouldn’t do it.” Did work with Department of Health and Human Resources and had to deal with budgets and what they need, said there are needs for funds for drug testing and treatment programs and other things. Getting back to where do you cut and how much do you cut it, that is a decision that once you get into the budget and see how much each agency returned each year and determine how much you should give the next year given inflation and costs. Until you get down to the budget and saw what’s this program use, how much did they get out of it, and how vital is the service, that’s when you need to work to find solutions.
Bright: Agree with parts of ACA. Said he hasn’t seen yet the definite answer of what that will cost. “There needs to be a definitive determination of the cost of the expansion. If we can’t afford it, we shouldn’t do it – it’s that simple.”
Question: Reordering priorities in general revenue budget, that could mean taking away money from something else. Budget buster is Medicaid, where do you stand on expansion under Affordable Care Act?
Walters said, “If you’re looking at revenue, just look at the education audit.” Also cited the $22,000 routers as government waste and said things like that need cut and money diverted to essential programs.
Carmichael: “This government is already too big, it spends too much money and we’re overtaxes as businesses and people in this state. And the extent to which we enable people to keep more of their hard earned money and we will foster capitalism here and revenue and we will see growth.”
Martin: Says people hate the idea of government needing new revenue. “I’m a paycheck to paycheck guy. I understand what it’s like to struggle. When people say they’re broke I understand, I don’t want to pay more taxes. But I do understand if we want good schools, good roads and a better future, we have to find a good way to pay for it. Because I don’t want to go back to the time when we had all these liabilities and a sea of red. That’s not how you run a government and run a business, and I do not want to go there.”
Asked follow up as to what constituents are willing to pay, what they say?
Bright said “We do have to reallocate and reprioritize where we’re going to spend and what we’re going to put in the budget. I agree that we don’t need to increase taxes, DMV fees or gas tax. I think we need to prioritize what we’re going to do with the money we have available. I’m not sure we need to have an $850M rainy day fund, I don’t think it needs to be close to a billion dollars, I don’t think it should be that much.” As far as new revenue, Marcellus shale was promising, but said Legislature would have to make hard decisions as to where they’re going to spend money. Knows people on Blue Ribbon Committee and said what they come back and says something needs to be done should be given serious consideration. “Whatever it involves and whatever it says, whoever of us gets elected needs to seriously consider that.”
Martin agreed with Carmichael that some other funding mechanism needs to happen due to decreasing revenue from gas tax. Conversely, asphalt is getting more expensive. “Therefore you have less money for roads available and a product that is more expensive.” Noted W.Va. 62 in Putnam county was “literally falling into the river.” And no funds had been given except for patching holes. “That for me is an unacceptable solution to the problem.” Said they can’t do the necessary work to fix it because there aren’t adequate revenue streams for the road fund. Would be willing to find new ways to fund it. “We have to look at the stark economic reality that unless you find a way to bring more money in, we have no way to fund new roads in this state.” Said dipping into general revenue would not be an option due to Medicaid, coal layoffs, casinos.
Talked to contractors association the other day and Professor Tom Witt, said the governor’s commission will be looking at revenue streams. “If the blue ribbon commission says we need to do x,y, and z, then I’m willing to do x, y, and z. I want my son to stay here, and unless we give them the resources and attitude to stay here, they won’t do that.” I’m pro-growing infrastructure, not just patching potholes.
Carmichael – Pointed to the distinction in many other states, counties and municipalities maintain roads. WV has adopted the principle of maintaining all of these roads.
“Let me first say no to any tax increase for gas. We are already over taxed.”
“We need to take money from our general revenue fund to reprioritize our budget. There has been a historic disposition for funding roads through the gas tax.
“That is one of the primary functions of our state government is to provide infrastructure. I am for taking money from the general revenue fund to solve some of these issues.”
Also talked about the high wage rates paid to contractors, favored more state maintenance employee work on roads.
Walters said in Louisville, Ky., said corporations like KFC sponsored some road maintenance. “Thinking outside the box like that, that’s the kind of things we should be doing for our roads.” Also talked about use of glass in road construction.
Question to candidate: What will you do to finance road construction and maintenance?
Walters: “I mainly want to look at an ethical government and deterring waste, that we’ve seen rampant in the papers in recent months.” Said would like to focus on improving roads and education, and opportunities for using things like e-readers, which could help students. “I really want to bring that for our state and bring us into the 21st century and help the children of West Virginia”
Carmichael: current House minority whip.
“I fundamentally believe West Virginia can be a better economic state and with more jobs and more growth.
I have a passion for growing this state and enabling our citizens to realize their dreams, be self sufficient and have opportunities.”
Martin: Graduated from Marshall U with degree in economics and political science, later went to law school. “I’m running for state senate because I believe in the lot of same principles my father did.” Says when people work hard for a living, they deserve a good life and provided good services, like good roads, and government should help do that.
Bright: “Of the four of us, I’m probably the only blue collar worker here.” Former WV State Police trooper, worked at a power plant for some time, has hit two-term limit as Jackson Sheriff. “I feel I could bring a different perspective, if you will, to the Senate, so that was my reason to run.”
Getting under way now, doing introductions.
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