WILLIAMSTOWN - While West Virginia was one of a few states to have a budget surplus during the latest recession, there was a time when the state was not so fortunate.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, making a campaign stop Saturday in Williamstown, said he was a member of the state legislature in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the state had rooms full of invoices it could not pay. He said the state legislature took steps to fix the state's financial problems by practicing fiscal responsibility.
"We decided it was time we started doing business like we would manage our own budgets and we did," he said. "We quit giving benefits we could not afford and we quit spending more than we were taking in."
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
During a visit Saturday to Williamstown, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, left, speaks with Mary Catherine Bolton, right, of Vienna, while Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford, middle, looks on. Bolton attended the Governor’s School for Math and Science at the Greenbank Observatory in July.
Tomblin said the state set up a 40-year payout plan that is halfway complete. West Virginia is the only state to set up a plan to payoff it OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) obligations, he added.
"We are the only state in the entire country to even address that," Tomblin said. "Most other states just kind of swept it under the rug and let their liabilities grow."
As a result of that and the state's high bond rating, Tomblin said businesses are starting to look at West Virginia as a place to do business.
"We are reducing taxes, our food tax will be eliminated on July 1 and the business franchise tax is being phased out and our corporate net income tax is being reduced making us competitive with other states," he said. "We are starting to attract businesses that never looked at us before."
Tomblin said job creation and lowering taxes along with improving the state's education system are the top priorities of his campaign.
"We have a lot of potential in West Virginia along with the Marcellus shale and the possibility of a fracking facility downstream," he said.