(Editor's Note: The Wetzel Chronicle mailed questions to all political candidates in this race. Their responses are printed in a simple question and answer format.)
Incumbent Dave Pethtel, Democrat, is being challenged by Raymond V. Davis III of the Mountain Party and Denzil W. Sloan of the Constitution party for the 5th District seat in West Virginia House of Delegates.
Davis was born in Maryland and at the age of nine moved to West Virginia. He received his A.A. and A.S. degrees at West Virginia Northern Community College and has a B.S. in Marketing from West Liberty State College, now West Liberty University, and a M.B.A. in International Business from Salem International University. In college Davis served as Vice President on Student Government.
Having lived in West Virginia since 1984, Davis said he knows the problems of the state.
Pethtel, age 61, is a graduate of Hundred High School. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Glenville State College and an Master of Arts + 45 graduate hours from West Virginia University.
Pethtel is beginning his 40th year of being an educator in the Wetzel County School System. He and his wife, Mary Ann, reside in Hundred. They have been married for 38 years and have two sons, Eric and Kevin (wife Stephanie), and grandsons, Noah and Trey.
Pethtel is a member of various organizations which include the following: West Virginia Education Association, Wetzel County Education Association, National Rifle Association, Wetzel County Farm Bureau, Littleton Lodge #131 AF & AM, New Martinsville Moose Lodge, Clay-Battelle Health Services Association-Board of Directors, and Community Sportsman's Club. He attends and is a member of the Rush Run United Methodist Church.
First elected to the House of Delegates in 1988, Pethtel served continuously until 1994. He was elected once again in 1998 and have served continuously until 2012. Pethtel presently serves as Assistant Majority Whip, Chairman-Pensions and Retirement, Education, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security and Senior Citizens Issues.
Sloan is a resident of the Reader area. He grew up near Fairmont where he attended local schools and attended West Virginia University where he received a degree in Business Administration. He has lived in Wetzel County for about 20 years.
During the past 12 years he has helped to organize the Constitution Party in West Virginia, served as the past chairman, secretary, and first district vice-chairman of the Constitution Party of West Virginia. He attended this year's national Constitution Party convention in Nashville, Tenn., as a delegate.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing our state? What would you propose to help address this issue?
Davis: Improving out state's economy and creating job growth are the biggest issues facing our state. I would propose legislation to make it easier for people to start small businesses in our state. I would also propose no tax on start up businesses for the first five years so they can reinvest their money into the company or hiring new employees. I would propose eliminating the state income tax rate for all West Virginians. I would also propose creating statewide water and sewage systems in each county and improving our state's emergency response system, fire departments, and 911 centers. Creating public transportation will also help create growth in our state. I will work to eliminate the clothing and gas tax.
Pethtel: The biggest issue facing West Virginia is the growth of our economy and the creation of good jobs for those who are qualified. We have worked hard to create fiscal stability in our state-an essential for businesses wishing to locate or expand in West Virginia. With eight successive years of budget surplus, no general tax increase for 17 years, a reduced corporate net tax, and the elimination of the business franchise tax and sales tax on food, West Virginia now offers the fiscal stability industry desires. We have over $800 million in our rainy day fund, an A++ bond rating, and we are the only state that has managed its OPEB debt-a remarkable achievement.
However, industry needs qualified employees who are properly educated or trained and drug free. We must work within the solid foundation of our education system to provide training for jobs related to the development of the Marcellus Shale, health care services, technology, and various services-related jobs. We must also educate today's generation for the jobs of tomorrow-manufacturing jobs derived from the natural gas industry, careers in innovation and research based science, and engineering and health care services to address an aging population.
Sloan: Article 1, Section 2 of W.Va.'s Constitution requires that public officials protect and guard the people of West Virginia from encroachments by the Federal government on the reserved rights of the State. In light of the frightening "indefinite detention" provision of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act and the ongoing humiliation of travelers by federal TSA agents and many other unconstitutional violations of rights, the Legislature must demand that public officials honor their constitutional obligations to protect the rights of the people of the state. One of these rights is the right to life. Regardless of Roe vs. Wade, law enforcement officials in this state must begin enforcement of West Virginia's abortion law which is still on the books. Those officials that refuse to do so should be removed.
What do you think our state legislature can do to help stimulate the economy and job growth in West Virginia?
Davis: We need to make it easier for people to start small businesses in our state. Don't tax start up businesses for the first five years so they can reinvest their money into the company or hiring new employees. We need to get rid of the state income tax. Reducing the corporate tax rate in West Virginia will attract business to our state. We need to improve our state's infrastructure. We need a light rail system for the entire state and we need to make county-wide water and sewage available throughout West Virginia. We need to eliminate the B&O taxes. Good paying jobs need to be made available in our area so our children don't have to move out of West Virginia to find work.
Pethtel: The West Virginia Legislature must be persistent in its mission of fully understanding the dynamics of how its actions impact the capacity of an industry or business to responsibly pursue its work. We must recognize that every additional level of regulation results in an increased cost of doing business.
This is not to say new regulations in a given industry are not justified, but in all cases, we need to proceed methodically to make sure we are making decisions with vast and long term consequences based on fact rather than just someone's political agenda. We should consider whether the benefit of the regulations justify the increase in cost of business operation. Businesses operate to generate revenues and profits, without which there would be no money to hire employees or expand.
Simply, the legislature must work thoughtfully and responsibly to produce good government decisions. The development of good public policy is an evolving work in progress and, as a legislator, it requires me to be attentive to facts and information while carefully weighing the ramifications of suggested policy changes. When I cast my vote, it is a vote for what is best for West Virginia.
Sloan: West Virginia has always been dependent on natural resources because the policies of leaders in the state have successfully ran out or kept out all other businesses except the only kind that can't be run out-natural resource extraction industries. Leaders in the state and local governments are not so much concerned about getting new businesses and jobs as they are in finding a new milk cow to suck off of.
We need to change direction and reduce taxation and unnecessary laws and regulation. A few examples are: 1. eliminate most of the over 80 professional licensing laws including the contractor licensing law, 2. eliminate laws which restrict and impose fees on the placement of business signs on private property near public roads, 3. forbid municipalities from "pipelining" or expanding city boundaries for the purpose of absorbing nearby businesses that have no desire to be a part of the municipality. 4. Allow farmers to sell raw milk, milk products, and meat from the farm without interference from the government.
Also, we need to reduce the corporate income tax to about four percent and eliminate the property tax on machinery, inventory, and equipment.
Beyond our control are the actions of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal government whose criminal policies are leading us to an economic disaster. The failure of the Federal government to maintain a stable, constitutional, gold-backed currency means that the government of West Virginia must take measures to protect the people of West Virginia from inflation and currency collapse by establishing a state-owned bank and a stable, gold- or silver-backed currency of it's own.
Do you think there should be more regulations on the burgeoning oil and gas industry? Please elaborate.
Davis: Yes, West Virginia needs clean air and water. We need to make sure that the chemicals being placed in the ground aren't poising our children and creating cancer or other health problems for our state's residents. I will propose a bill giving landowners the right to say no to drilling on their land and restore mineral rights to the current landowner.
Pethtel: The Horizontal Well Control Act passed in December 2011 captured the essence of necessary regulation of Marcellus Shale drilling. It addressed water withdrawal and disposal and created standards for construction of well-pads, roads, etc. It articulated reclamation standards and increased the permit fee from $400 to $10,000. The life of the legislation is ongoing, as required studies will ensure effective implementation and evaluate air quality, noise, and dust levels, etc. The results of these studies could lead to additional legislation.
We are fortunate that northern West Virginia sits on a major natural gas reserve that will drive our economy for generations. The natural gas industry provides good paying jobs with benefits at a time when there is little else. It also promises a restoration of West Virginia's manufacturing sector and will benefit other industries such as steel production.
While I am encouraged by the possibilities that the natural gas industry brings to our area, if issues arise which have not been addressed, you can be sure that I will devote time and energy to solving the same. Service to the people of the district I have been elected to represent is the greatest honor I have and I will continue to observe it as such.
Sloan: The Marcellus bill passed last December was an insult to all surface owners in West Virginia, especially those who do not own mineral rights. The Legislature appeared to be giving more protection to surface owners by excluding well pads to 600 feet from homes. However, the bill only includes some, not all, of the horizontal wells and also allows the DEP to make waivers. So the protection, in this regard, is just for appearance only and offers no real protection. Surface owners remain second class owners with the mineral owners/drillers being the primary owners of the surface land. We need a new law that actually protects surface owners and gives them the upper-hand in any decision about the location of well pads, roads, and other fixtures.