Tomblin says WV on right track; Maloney says it isn't
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's speech at the Business Summit here was interrupted by applause six times as he recounted the state's successes over the past several years and insisted that "while we still have challenges, we are moving in the right direction."
Bill Maloney, his Republican challenger in the November gubernatorial election, won't speak at the business gathering until Friday. But Maloney is planning to paint a far different picture.
In his prepared remarks, Maloney states, "We are in our fifth month of rising unemployment, and our economy is headed in the wrong direction."
Tomblin said, "I have worked over my career to create a conservative fiscal management philosophy for our state. One where we manage our budgets, address our problems, maximize our opportunities, and work together for West Virginia.
"Thanks to the progress made in our business climate, we are poised for economic growth,'" Tomblin said. "First, we have continued to improve our state's finances by increasing our reserves, addressing our liabilities and balancing our budgets."
Tomblin said the state's Rainy Day Funds have increased by almost a quarter of a billion dollars since he became governor and the state now has over $880 million in its Rainy Day Funds.
"We've been able to address our long-term liabilities," Tomblin added. "And we did so without a tax increase."
Tomblin drew spontaneous applause when he said, "West Virginia hasn't had a general tax increase in 17 years. No other state can say that."
The Logan County Democrat detailed recent decreases in state taxes and said he is committed to making sure tax reductions that have been put in motion become a reality.
"I know we still have work to do," he said. "We have accomplished a lot. But I am not satisfied with where West Virginia is right now. Our agencies need to be better at the job they do. Our tax structure needs additional work. We will find ways to improve our regulatory climate. Now that we have momentum on our side, it is time to really put forth the effort to make our state shine. I have a record of bringing Republicans and Democrats together to make a difference. You have my word that I will continue to do so."
Tomlin said the Marcellus Shale holds great promise and said, "We are working as hard as we can to help attract a cracker and other petrochemical industries."
He said he's not afraid of a good fight, "particularly with the EPA. I believe in the production of coal, its value to our country, and I will continue to do everything that I can to fight the EPA and the Obama administration."
In his prepared remarks, Maloney states Tomblin isn't in touch with the real world.
"If the career politicians understood the real world, they wouldn't allow state spending to be out of control," Maloney says. "My opponent recently passed the largest budget in state history, more than $4 billion - and he's spending all of it."
Maloney adds, "I knew trouble was coming when I looked at the six-year budget projection last February. You know what I saw? An estimate of $200 million in additional Medicaid costs in fiscal 2013 and assumptions like 'the price of coal continuing to rise.' Anyone who's ever guaranteed a loan like me would have been concerned then. Why didn't we start addressing these issues then by at the very least instituting a hiring freeze instead of playing politics as usual?"
The state ranks 41st for private sector growth and 48th for business climate, Maloney says.
"The career politicians in Charleston may tout investment or claim new job creation," he states. "But the proof is in the pudding, and surveys like this one confirm what we as business people see on the ground.
"Places like Louisiana and Texas are building multiple ethane crackers, and are currently competing for a gas to liquids plant," Maloney says. "In West Virginia, we aren't even on the radar screen.
"All this while we sit back and watch Obama wage a war on coal that is destroying our way of life. My opponent talks about standing up to Obama, but people can see through the empty rhetoric. "This month Earl Ray announced that the state needs to prepare for budget cuts," Maloney says. "When? Next year? With unemployment rising for five consecutive months and revenues down $400 million next year? Why wait? Why not call a special session right now to address the problem head on?"