Editor's note: On Nov. 6, voters in West Virginia will select between Republican Bill Maloney and Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin for West Virginia's next governor. Maloney spoke with the Sunday News-Register about his campaign and how he's getting his message out across the state.
-- Tell us something about yourself voters don't already know?
Maloney: I have a new grandson - almost 4-months-old. Trouble is, he's in Charlotte (N.C.). I don't think anybody knows about him. I talk about him - but not enough. He's my first (grandchild). His name is Graham.
-- Has that changed your outlook on life?
Maloney: Yes. We have to do what is right for our children and grandchildren, and we have to keep them in the state. I'm not alone in having to travel far and wide to see family. It's one of our biggest problems - we can't keep our children here.
-- What is a typical day for you on the campaign trail?
Maloney: It seems like they keep me out way too late all the time. I like getting to bed early, and up early. The up early part is still in there - but there's not enough hours. I like to get up and exercise every day. This morning I actually rode near (Cheat Lake). Yesterday it was a bike ride and a swim - something every morning to get your blood going, and it keeps your outlook better, too.
-- Is campaigning physically exhausting for you?
Maloney: No, it's not bad. I tell people I sleep in a bed every night. It's not like when I was in the drilling business when you didn't know where you were going to sleep - if you were going to sleep. It grinds a little bit, but you meet some great folks and it's energizing.
-- Your opponent has been in public office for many years, and during that time he has had opportunities to meet many people throughout the state. Do you find yourself playing catch-up just getting people to know who you are, and what you stand for?
Maloney: I think we faced a little bit of that. This year it has been much better because we've had a little bit more time and people knew who we are going in. Last year, nobody knew who we were.
For instance we were in Logan ... and people knew who we were. And they are very supportive. People understand we are fighting the machine over there in D.C. ... They know who we are in southern West Virginia, and they didn't last year, I think.
-- Are you finding folks in the southern part of the state more receptive this time around to your message?
Maloney: Yes, we're making really good inroads. You hate to see what is happening in the mining industry. We've lost 3,000 mining jobs this year. So the coal miners are just outraged, as are their families. Their whole way of life is in jeopardy.
We need to fight back against Washington and Obama, and we're not doing a good enough job of doing it. I've seen ups and downs in my lifetime in the coal industry and natural gas pricing, but the government has never been in the equation like it is now. And we have to stop them.
We had (Texas) Gov. Rick Perry in to help us, and we were talking to him while we were driving about what he has done in Texas to fight back. He said, 'I've got ... 22 actions' against the federal government for a a variety of issues - the EPA, DHHR. I think we've got two.
-- What are those two issues?
Maloney: Manchin when he shot the Cap and Trade, he joined one action ... and (Tomblin) when he joined the utility MACT. We should have joined the carbon dioxide rules and the stream buffer. There are so many things we should be doing.
-- Let's talk about Obamacare. We understand that if the states refuse to go along with two things - the Medicaid expansion and the setting up insurance exchanges - if enough states refuse to do those things, Obamacare collapses. How would you handle that as governor? Would you urge the Legislature not to do either of those things?
Maloney: First of all, we need to fully repeal Obamacare. It's a huge tax increase.
At the state level, until we get the numbers we can't jump into expanding Medicaid. This is a budget-buster here in West Virginia. We've seen some of the little things the governor has done. He's cut child care, and people are upset - and rightfully so.
Obamacare is a ticking time bomb, and we need some common sense solutions for health care. Not from this thing - it's not the common sense solution I think we need.
-- Wasn't there some movement in the governor's office toward setting up an insurance exchange?
Maloney: I think we are the second state in the nation to start it - right behind California. We've already spent - last I heard - $14 million setting up an exchange. We shouldn't be doing it. We should be working hard to repeal the thing, and working with our Congressional delegation.
We need some common sense things. There are a few things - insuring pre-existing conditions, allowing kids to stay on their parents' plans until they are 26. But we didn't even address tort reforms that would hold the cost of health care down, and maybe giving tax credits to people who purchase their own health care.
-- Sen. Manchin - when he was governor - they set up something call Mountain Health Choices in Medicaid. It basically required Medicaid recipients to take more responsibility for their own health. As governor, would you promote something like that - both to make people more healthy and to cut costs?
Maloney: Self responsibility is a huge thing, and we will do whatever we can to make people more responsible. We're one of the unhealthiest states in the country. It's about education. It's about people taking better care of themselves.
-- In a year or two years from now, if you've been elected governor and Obamacare has not been repealed, what kind of impact do you see that having on the state? And realistically what can the state do to prepare for that?
Maloney: You've got to start cutting government. It's going to cost $200 million this coming fiscal year, and nobody knows how much down the road it is going to cost.
If you look at our budget over the past 10 years, it keeps going up, up, up. I remember when the state budget was $4 billion, and now it's over $10 billion. It's got to go the other way.
This is the largest budget we've had in state history. And here we are losing our coal revenue - 3,000 mining jobs lost this year. Severance taxes are going to follow. We've got to promote private sector job growth. Government doesn't have the answers.
I think it's about 95 percent of the jobs in West Virginia are from small business. We got to do a better job protecting small business.
-- What about taxes? Is there anything we can do to help small business in a substantial way there?
Maloney: We've come up with a few particular ideas, and at these town hall meetings we've had some other ones pop up. I think I mentioned an idea that came up in Wellsburg last year about new investment on equipment. You should get a tax moratorium and not pay taxes on new equipment for the first three years or five years - until it starts to depreciate.
We had another idea come out of our first town hall meeting in Morgantown. To promote private investment, why don't you have a cut - or have no capital gains tax - when you sell a company if you are a West Virginia resident. ... Right now, anybody sells a company like I did, you pay 6.5 percent. Whatever the top rate is, you pay it. You don't pay a lower rate on capital gains. And what happens, people are just moving out of the state. ... We need to promote people to stay here and promote private investment. I think an idea like that would sure help.
-- One reason young people move away is there may be work here, but not the kind of work they want. The pay is not at the level they want. The job is not what they want. A lot of young people these days want high-tech jobs. Is there anything we can do to target that type of job growth?
Maloney: I think an idea like the private investment and no tax when you sell your business would promote some jobs like that. I've seen people start companies here. More often than not, they get going and they find out they can't really grow here. They end up in Maryland - which is stunning to me - or Virginia or Pennsylvania. They just move.
They could be here. Look at the biometrics industry we tried to promote. It seems like they're all government jobs. There are definitely some private sector opportunities there if we just make it easier for them to create the capital they need here, and create a business. The talent is here.
If you go down I-79, around Fairmont or Clarksburg ... most of those jobs are very high-tech. There are a lot of smart people. But they're all government-related. If we could just get them off in the private sector, and do some private sector security work. There are a couple of companies that are able to do that, and they've done pretty well.
-- A lot of people recall the work you did, some of your designs to free the trapped Chilean miners years ago. Can you give a brief recap of your business experience, some of the ventures you have been involved with, and how that has shaped who you are today?
Maloney: Sure. I started a company in 1984. There were two of us, and we literally started in a shop that had a dirt floor. We didn't know any better. We built the drilling rig out of a scrap yard. And we grew that company into something really special. We drilled up to 18-foot shafts all over the world.
You know there is this feeling out there that there is something wrong with working hard and getting ahead. You heard the president's comments (about government being responsible for building private business). ... I didn't have anything to do with my business succeeding? Government did all that for me? He is wrong and his comments are outright ridiculous, I can tell you.
And that attitude tends to permeate down to our state level. I'm living proof of the American Dream. We need to make those opportunities available to our kids and grandchildren. I was fortunate to start a company, create a lot of jobs. I had about 115 employees when I sold the business about six years ago. Over the years we helped a lot of other people start companies, too, a lot of other great ideas. One of which was the technology we ended up going to Chile with - a company called Center Rock. It started in an old shop in Westover.
I sold my interest in Center Rock back in 2003. ... When I heard it was going to take four months to drill a hole to free those miners, I immediately thought of that technology. (Center Rock's new owner, Brandon Fisher) and I got our heads together, and we ended up on a plane for Chile a week and a half later. The rest of it you know.
We were able to drill a hole pretty quickly, and that was technology similar to how we did it in the scrap yard. We threw ideas on the floor, and the next thing we knew we had something that worked.
We didn't know what the market would be for it. Originally, it was just bridge piers. Turned out we were able to drill a hole 2,100-hundred feet deep in really hard rock and rescue miners. It's amazing what you can do. American ingenuity is something else.
-- Not to disparage your opponent, but he has spent essentially his entire career in politics. You have spent your entire career in business. How does that set you apart from him?
Maloney: When you've done the things I've done with my life, you think differently. We look at things in a different way.
For instance, when I was down in Chile, I started asking questions about what they were going to use for a rescue capsule. And they had no idea. They were going to use the one we had at Quecreek (mine). We got into that, got some drawings, and thought that's not going to work. The hole is crooked. I remember drawing on a piece of paper, and thinking we need some rollers on this. Handed them to an engineer.
The next day, I remember reading that NASA had designed a rescue capsule. I learned about the national media right then. There is a Smithsonian exhibit (on the mine rescue) that came out last year, and they had some reference to NASA. That drives me crazy - I went and got a patent on the rollers on the rescue capsule. We just built one. We now have a real-life rescue capsule here if we need it based on the design of the one in Chile. ...
My background is just different. I was with contractors recently talking about how we are going to fund infrastructure. I'm an old contractor, and I know it's a big issue. Our tax revenues are going down. The funding stream is just not there. You got to think differently about how to do things. You've heard the term "private/public partnerships." Usually that means tolls. You've heard about "future funds." Sen. (Jeff) Kessler talks about this a lot, and I think we agree on some of these ideas.
We've got huge opportunities in our natural gas sector right now. I look at the public lands we have, and wonder why we don't take advantage of the resources under them and all the new technology that is out there. If we just start leasing a little bit of this public land - that's how Alaska gets its future fund. We can have a revenue stream for infrastructure and set it aside for future generations for research, all kinds of things. ... You've got to think differently. You can't keep doing things the same old way.
-- Twenty years ago, state government wasn't a train wreck about to happen - we were hitting something. Compared to 20 years ago, state government has made gigantic strides. How do you convince voters that we, as a state, can be a lot better?
Maloney: I use the analogy we're the Texas of the East. We should be leading the nation toward energy independence, and we can do it. You look at the low-cost energy we have here particularly in natural gas - there are companies that want to be here that are energy-intensive, like Shell. The trouble is they moved across the state lines.
There are other businesses we hear about that want to be here, and technology we haven't even heard of yet. What's interesting to me - Gov. Jindal and Gov. Perry are fighting over a gas-to-liquids plant that Shell is going to put in. We don't even hear about those things. They're not even looking at us.
Here we are investing in pipelines and infrastructure to take our natural gas and liquids to the Gulf Coast so they can find enough land instead of those plants being built right here. And to me, it's the way we tax, it's our court system, and it's our culture of corruption. I didn't realize how bad that was. We have to fix it.
You shouldn't have to hire lobbyists to get ahead in this state. It drives big corporations nuts as well as it does little corporations. That's one thing Gov. Jindal put down first in Louisiana, and that's what we're going to do here.
Disclosure - everything has to be open and transparent. Gov. Jindal told me the story of getting rid of the seats at LSU games - getting rid of his box. No more cups of coffee. Just everything.
-- Public education. One of the biggest complaints we hear is that teachers in this state are underpaid, yet a recent audit of the state Department of Education showed that we have the second highest ratio of administrators to students in the nation. If elected governor, do you intend to fix that problem and possibly use the savings to increase teacher pay?
Maloney: You bet. There was an audit that came out in January. I think it showed as much as $90 million in savings per year if we get rid of bureaucracy. Our state has more bureaucracy per pupil than any state in the country but one.
There's nothing wrong with paying teachers more, getting the money down to a local level, and rewarding them based on performance. Those are all things that need to be done.
In one of our forums, we got a lot of questions about teacher certifications and how archaic our rules are there. There are so many people who are great teachers - they move here from out of state and have such a hard time being certified.
We've also got a huge home school population in different areas of the state I didn't realize. In Jefferson County, there are more than 700 kids being homeschooled ... yet we make it so hard for them. They can't go to dances, they can't play on sports teams ... we've got to change that.
-- You mentioned Jefferson County, where they have legitimate concerns about pay because they can't compete with Virginia and Maryland. How do you feel about geographic differentials?
Maloney: It's like everything else in this state. Everything goes to the almighty golden dome in Charleston, and gets doled out like one-size-fits-all. In Jefferson and Berkeley counties, in particular, they should be keeping more of their money there. If they want to pay teachers $10,000 more a year, they should be able to do that.
We've got to figure out a way to do that. I had one teacher speak up, and she could make $20,000 more per year moving across the state line. And so many people do that. They don't want to, but they get forced to do it. We've got to let them fix that. And they got school construction issues that can't keep up.
It's like a different world when you go there. In Morgantown, we've got a lot going on, but when you go to the Eastern Panhandle it's amazing .... It's become a bedroom community for D.C. They think a little differently there. You ask them where the capital is, and they say D.C. They don't even think about Charleston being the capital. It's five hours away.
We've got a great opportunity this year to really get (the Eastern Panhandle) on the map if we get them all out to vote. I think we can really change the way the state is made up. We've got an attorney general candidate from over there, and an auditor. There's a couple of seats that are running unopposed over there. There's one big senate race, and no one is running on the Republican side. It's amazing.