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Despite issues facing state, Del. Hartman positive about future


The Inter-Mountain

ELKINS, W.Va.  — Despite the fiscal woes facing the Mountain State, local officials remain positive following the inauguration of West Virginia’s 36th governor, Jim Justice on Monday.

Delegate Bill Hartman, D-W.Va., said that despite the many issues that will face legislators at the start of the 60-day session on Feb. 8, Justice was positive in the delivery of his inaugural address and hopeful for what’s to come.

“As always, he was very positive, which I think is important, because we’ve got some serious problems to deal with,” Hartman said.“We have to remain positive, and I think his approach to our problems may be a bit different than the average political animal. I feel real good about what he has in mind.”

“I think his remarks were very good and similar to all the remarks he made while he was campaigning,” Hartman added. “I think, obviously, he’s been successful, but doesn’t have the political experience. When (Gaston) Caperton was elected governor, he didn’t have any political experience either. I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll see that Justice has made a big difference.”

The only specific city Justice mentioned in his inaugural address — relating to the timber industry — on Monday was Elkins.

“I was happy to hear him mention Elkins,” Hartman said. “Really, the Timber industry is pretty good here. Things are really moving along.”

“I think his (Justice’s) target is reintroducing the furniture industy in the U.S. and not sending everything to China and Vietnam,” Hartman added. “We aren’t harvesting as fast as we are growing right now. We’re the second most timbered state in the Union, and it’s (the industry) is very important right now. Right now, if you are out and about, you can’t go five minutes without seeing something involved in wood products on Randolph Avenue.”

Justice also talked about the declining coal industry in his address, noting he thinks severence taxes should be adjusted to how the market is doing. In down times, severence taxes should be lower, Justice said, but in prosperous times, taxes should be adjusted so more is being paid.

Hartman thinks the coal industry is on a bit of an upswing.

“Hopefully the coal thing will pick up,” Hartman said. “In talking with the Coal Association, they feel that maybe the steel industry is making a rebound, which will have a positive impact on the coal industry. It will be an exciting time for the next couple years to see how everything turns out.”

Education also was a key component of Justice’s address. He noted the overall decline in enrollment in Mountain State schools since the 1980s and the increase in educational oversight and top-tier state school officials.

Hartman agrees on education and thinks a more local approach is needed.

“Obviously, over the past 10 years, the feds have become a greater force in education, and in my personal opinion, we should get the feds clear out if it, as far as I’m concerned,” Hartman said. “We’ve been through No child Left Behind and all the buzz words, and we are no better off than where we started from.”

“We need to return it to the lowest level we can,” Hartman added. “I’m not sure the State Board of Education has been the most effective either. I think we have to return it to the teachers and make them accountable for their actions and we would be better off.”

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