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Republican Elliot Simon, a retired businessman and a member of the Jefferson County Republican Party Executive Committee, is challenging Democratic incumbent John Doyle, a 12-term member of the House of Delegates. Here’s what they said during a WRNR-TV10 forum on Sept. 29.

Simon: I’m committed to the safety of the community and for helping it prosper, and I’m asking for your vote. …

Doyle: I’m an advocate of clean government. I think government needs to be accessible, accountable and transparent. And that it what I’ve worked on ever since I’ve been in [the House of Delegates].

For many years I served on the House Finance Committee, and when I was elected in 2018 everybody presumed that I would want to be on the finance committee and I was offered the appointment. And I said, no, I’d like to be on education [committee] now because I think we’ve gotten to the point in our state where education is the critical thing. …

Question to Doyle: Have you achieved or failed in achieving your 2018 campaign goal of opposing the Rockwool insulation factory under construction?

Doyle: Neither. In the immortal words of John Paul Jones, “We’ve just begun to fight.” The fight against Rockwool is not against Rockwool, per se. It’s a fight against pollution, and we are still fighting to make sure the state of West Virginia keeps Jefferson County from being polluted—air pollution and water pollution. An example: The federal Environmental Protection Agency says that you should not allow settling ponds for stormwater management in karst topography. Jefferson County is just one big patch of karst, and the West Virginia [Department of Environmental Protection] said that’s OK, you can go ahead [and build stormwater management ponds in karst topography at the Rockwool factory site] and do it anyway. It’s things like this that we are still fighting.

Simon: Well, I share John’s concern for the environment, and for air and water pollution. I leave that to the regulators, which is the [Department of Environmental Protection] here in West Virginia. And from what I understand, Rockwool went through the process. They follow all the laws. They cross their T’s and dotted their I’s, and they passed and they were awarded the permit.

So I’m not for or against any particular company, and I’m not for picking winners and losers. But I’d like to just interject here that the reason that Rockwool is where it is is because of legislation that the Democrats passed in the legislature back in 2001. That was SB 202, which it gave municipalities the ability to annex land. And so the land that Rockwool is now building their plant on is within Ranson, out of the reach of the state and out of the reach of the county.

And so that’s why it is where it is.

Question: Are the two pay increases the West Virginia legislature gave teachers sufficient?  

Doyle: The answer is no. We’re nowhere near where we need to be when it comes to teachers’ pay. We’re simply going to need more money, and I have advocated doubling the severance tax on natural gas. And actually when I ran two years ago I advocated doubling the severance tax on natural gas. Now I think we need to double the severance tax on all energy producing resources. This will gives us the money to do the kinds of things that are necessary.

Simon: The recent education reform bill finally allows for some iteration of locality pay. And I think that’s the key issue for the Eastern Panhandle, and it’s been resisted through court actions and the unions because for some reason the unions believe that everybody across the state should be paid the same amount of money, and the cost of living is not the same across the state. The Eastern Panhandle has much higher cost of living, particularly when it comes to the purchase of a home. And I’ve run into so many other teachers who teach in other jurisdictions because they make more money.

Really, locality pay really is the key issue.

Doyle: If I could gently dispute Elliot’s use of the term “the unions.” The school service personnel and the American Federation of Teachers are OK with [locality pay]. One union, the [West Virginia Education Association] is not.

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