Three Marshall County men are seeking to represent the 4th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates. The top two selected by voters will represent the district for the next two years in Charleston.
Those on the ballot are incumbent Delegate Mike Ferro, D-Marshall; fellow Democrat David Sidiropolis; and Republican David Evans.
- Ferro, of McMechen is seeking his third term in the West Virginia House of Delegates representing the 4th District.
He currently serves as assistant majority whip, and is vice-chairman of the House Enrolled Bills committee. He also serves on House judiciary, senior issues, veterans affairs and homeland security, and constitutional revision committees.
Ferro taught at Sherrard Junior High School for 35 years, and served as assistant basketball coach at John Marshall High School. He and wife, Roseann, have three children and two grandchildren.
He sees West Virginia as being on strong financial footing.
He said the state has had "continuous budget surpluses, an outstanding rainy day fund, an excellent bond rating and taxes are being reduced and/or eliminated - food, business franchise and corporate net taxes," he said. "Also, all our long-term debts have been addressed - workers' comp, teachers retirement and" other post-employment benefits for state employees.
"The state is poised for economic growth. The Marcellus Shale natural gas boom hopefully will lead to local worker employment."
And the Marcellus regulatory bill passed last year in the Legislature should bring stability to the industry, he said. The new law establishes rules and regulations for all involved, and Ferro added lawmakers will address any inadequacies during the 2013 session.
"I would like to see a natural gas severance bill where more money comes back to the producing counties, just like the coal severance bill does," Ferro said.
Improving education is the best way to bring new industry to the area, he added.
"We can make the area more attractive by having excellent schools in the Northern Panhandle, eliminating and reducing taxes, and having a ready, reliable and capable work force," Ferro said. "We should also be providing affordable housing, and we should have a personal property tax lower than our neighboring states."
- Sidiropolis, currently is manager at Sidiropolis Law in McMechen.
He worked for six years with the West Virginia Lottery Commission, including four as a special investigator. He concentrated primarily on regulation and enforcement at two of the state's four casinos, working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
He graduated from Wheeling Jesuit University in 2004 with a degree in political and economic philosophy.
Sidiropolis said that according to data released by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, West Virginia had the third-best percentage of growth in its economy among all 50 states last year thanks to growth in natural resource extraction.
"With natural gas well life expected to last 30 to 40 years, future economic stability is enhanced by the Marcellus Shale extraction," he said. "Nevertheless, a major concern is the outstanding obligations of pension, post-employment benefits and unemployment trust fund loans. ...
"The current approved budget of $11.6 billion includes $4 billion backed by general revenues and $497 million from cautiously reliable lottery revenue. The current administration has and must continue to take fiscally sound and responsible positions on state hiring and curb excessive spending by avoiding inefficiency, and rewarding performance to ensure that the state avoids deficits which weaken confidence and hinders growth."
Sidiropolis praised state leaders for passing the Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act, as well as amendments to existing laws that regulate the fracking process.
"West Virginia set definitive rules and standards for the drilling industry that will not unnecessarily constrain development of our Marcellus gas reserves," he said.
"Additionally, we must provide and maintain a well-trained and sufficiently numbered force of inspectors to monitor the activity and guarantee compliance with regulations.
"Additional legislative measures are necessary to address the safety concerns caused by an increased number of commercial vehicles on the road. It is important that we aggressively monitor regulations to make certain that they are sufficient, work with industry leaders and modify any regulations that are ineffective or have negative unforeseen consequences."
West Virginia's "business-friendly environment" and "highly skilled work force" compete in an ever-changing world environment, he added.
"Startup small business is one of the most important factors in driving a state's economy," he said. "We rate near the top safest places to live in the United States. It's time to let others in on the secret."
Evans graduated from Glenville State College in 1967 with a double major in social studies and business education.
He also coached cross county and track.
"Our state budget is the largest in our state's history," he said. "If the programs and costs continue to grow as projected and tax collections aren't higher than expectations, the state will need $4.8 billion next year, or roughly $389 million more than this year.
"I applaud past Legislatures for taking the steps to shore up our Rainy Day Funds and our pension funds, but we have serious financial issues facing our state. I will fight President Obama's 'War on Coal' and work to repeal West Virginia's cap and trade bill, which continues to hurt our coal mining families and has reduced the amount of coal severance taxes our state collects. I'll work to find and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in our state budget. Lastly, we must address our regressive tax structure so businesses will come to West Virginia. "
West Virginia's natural gas creates a tremendous opportunity for our state, he continued.
"I support a regulatory policy that protects mineral rights owners, landowners, developers, and our environment," he said. "I believe that a substantial portion of the taxes paid from our natural gas resources should be sent back to the counties where the natural gas was harvested. These tax dollars should be used to help repair infrastructure, pay for services, and invested back in the community. I am open to a suggestion that was discussed during the last legislative session, which is to develop a fund similar to Alaska's Future Fund where a portion of the natural gas severance tax money is placed into a savings program for the future benefit of our people.
Evans added the most critical issue facing West Virginia is jobs and the economy
"I have spoken with a lot of job creators that have been hurt by West Virginia's tax and regulatory environment," he said. "My barber is considering going out of business after 40 years of service because of additional burdensome regulations.
"We need to fix our business climate by addressing our regressive tax structure, evaluating our regulatory environment, stopping lawsuit abuse that drives away job creators, and getting our state's runaway spending under control. Reforming our legal system is critical. We need to curb frivolous lawsuits that drive up the cost of doing business in our state. Finally, West Virginia's children deserve nothing less than a first class education, but we have failed them and their parents."