by Ron Gregory
GILBERT — Incumbent Democrat Delegate Phyllis Riffe White of Gilbert readily acknowledges the state’s budgetary crisis is real. She says she has suggestions to improve the situation but believes the Republican majority needs to “bite the bullet and show us some leadership, too.”
White is opposed in the Democrat Primary for state House of Delegates District 21 by Gilbert Mayor Vivian Kennedy Livingood. Questions regarding the race were submitted to both candidates but Livingood did not respond. The two Republicans running for the position, Mark Dean and Roger Stacy, will be interviewed next week.
White, wife of longtime legislator Harry Keith White, said she is “not at all convinced” legislation passed during the last regular session by the Republican majority “is designed to help bring us out of this economic downturn.” Phyllis White was appointed to her position after her husband resigned.
White said she opposed the right-to-work legislation approved during the session earlier this year as well as the GOP plan to eliminate the prevailing wage rate on governmental projects. “I think if you look at states where that type of legislation has already been passed and in effect for years, you’ll see neither one spurs any economic development,” White said.
Rather than pass legislation like right-to-work and eliminating the prevailing wage rate, White said she wants to concentrate “on projects that will help build the future in Southern West Virginia.” She cited such projects as the recently-approved Beech Creek water project as an example of that kind of “community-building plan.” The Beech Creek project is set to provide public water service to 252 new customers. It is a nearly $5 million development.
“I want to work to get as many coal jobs back as possible,” said Delegate White. “But we also need to diversify. That should have always been our goal and we need diversification now more than ever.”
White also touted such projects as the new racing complex near the Mingo-Logan border. “It’s a place where people from out-of-state and out of the area will come and spend money here,” she said. “It will increase business for local businesses and bring outside money in here. We need more projects like this and we need to entice industry to build here as well.”
White said one of her major concerns in the budget crisis is the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA). “We made a commitment to people, like retirees, and now we are considering not fulfilling those commitments. I think that is wrong” she said. White said, “the Republican leadership is going to have to learn there must be give-and-take. You can only cut programs so much before you start hurting the people who need those services most.”
She added, “we’ve already cut agency budgets. What does leadership plan on cutting next year and the year after that?”
The Mingo Delegate predicted there “there will be an increase in tobacco taxes. In the latest negotiations, the Republicans are apparently willing to vote for a 45-cent additional tax on cigarettes.”
But White said “Democrats are not going to fall for their tricks if they think we’ll provide all the votes for a tax increase while they let most of their members vote against it. Our leaders are too smart to let that happen.”
She went on, “Look, we all understand we have a duty to present a balanced budget. Democrats do; Republicans do. We need to live up to our oath of office, look at the revenue stream and see what needs to be done.”
White said, if elected to a full term in November, she will “use my experience in the educational system and my knowledge of the legislature to be the best Delegate I can be.” She said she would be “constantly working to revive Southern West Virginia’s economy. We might not be able to offer all solutions in a year, but we need to get started down the right path now.”
During her tenure in the school system, White won numerous awards and commendations. “I was successful in my educational career and I want to be successful in the legislature. With the support of the people, we will get it done. Southern West Virginia is the greatest place on earth and I’m proud to call it home.”
White said she has been spending most of her time recently on the campaign trail. “I’m seeing as many people as I can, talking to them and getting their thoughts and ideas,” she said. “Our people are our strength.”