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Wheeling lawmaker considers run for Congress

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo Ryan Ferns
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo
Ryan Ferns

WHEELING, W.Va. — West Virginia Sen. Ryan Ferns says he’d consider running for Congress next year if three-term U.S. Rep David McKinley decides to enter the governor’s race.

Ferns said he’d been approached about running for West Virginia’s 1st District congressional seat even before his 2014 election to the state Senate, but the inquiries have intensified since reports surfaced that McKinley, R-W.Va., is considering a 2016 gubernatorial bid. He said he’s been contacted by political consultants about the possibility, but he doesn’t plan to oppose McKinley for the GOP nomination.

“Until Congressman McKinley makes a definite decision, that’s as far as it’ll go for me. I’m really happy where I’m at. … ,” Ferns said. “I’ll always go wherever I feel like I’m needed. If a conservative voice is needed to run in the 1st Congressional District, it’s something I would certainly consider.”

 

At 32, Ferns is younger than than all but two current members of the U.S. House. Only six House members are 34 or younger – the age he would be in January 2017 when the next Congress takes office.

On Thursday, Ferns was one of 23 Republican state lawmakers from around the country identified as “2015 Emerging Leaders” by GOPAC, a national Republican organization based in Arlington, Va., with a stated mission of “identifying and supporting the next generation of Republican leaders.”

In his first session as as a state senator, Ferns was tapped to chair the Health and Human Resources Committee, and was named vice chairman of the Labor and Enrolled Bills committees.

“I was extremely honored,” Ferns said of his selection. “To be honest, I wasn’t all that familiar with the program prior to being chosen. … To be a first-year senator who was chosen to chair the health committee is something that signified to them that I have support and confidence from my colleagues in the Senate.”

GOPAC did not contribute any money to Ferns’ 2014 state Senate campaign, but did spend almost $35,000 in support of GOP candidates for the Legislature last year, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.

Ferns said he’s traveling to Charleston today to meet with fellow members of the Joint Select Committee on Tax Reform, a group of 14 lawmakers – seven senators and seven delegates, nine Republicans and five Democrats – tasked by the leadership of both houses to find ways to simplify West Virginia’s tax code.

Ferns said the state must make its tax code easier to understand, as well as broaden the tax base to avoid “constant peaks and valleys” when certain sources of revenue such as coal severance taxes and lottery proceeds rise and fall over time.

“The more people we have working, the stronger our economy will be and the more prosperous our citizens will be,” he said. “We don’t literally create jobs. The best thing we can do is create an environment in our state that that will attract new businesses, and the tax code is a part of that.”

However, skeptics of the committee’s work, including analysts at the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, say recent tax cuts haven’t led to significant job creation, and they worry that comprehensive tax reform will decrease revenue at a time when the state for two consecutive years has turned to its Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget.

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