By Don Smith
When you're elected state official and a candidate for governor, a normal day often means travel and double duty.
Friday afternoon, State Treasurer John Perdue was in Hampshire County returning unclaimed property funds to the county's 911 center. Friday evening, candidate Perdue was attending a campaign fundraiser in Martinsburg at the home of Dr. Bill Queen. In between, he stopped at The Journal office to discuss both jobs.
"I'm here in the Eastern Panhandle for two reasons. I came over to the Hampshire County area of the Eastern Panhandle to pass out some unclaimed property checks for the 911 center of more than $130,000. ... That helps upgrade with some equipment they need," Perdue said. "For the rest of the time, I'll be campaigning for governor here in the Eastern Panhandle."
While in Hampshire County as state treasurer, Perdue said he also promoted the college plan he developed to encourage West Virginians to save for their children's college education.
"Wherever I go, I like to promote my college savings program, the 529 plan, which is now over a $1.5 billion program in the state," he said. "I'm very proud of that plan. More than 27,000 West Virginia families are invested in that plan."
Admitting that he can "get on a roll" about his campaign, Perdue said he enjoys talking about his plans for the state and explaining why West Virginians should vote for him.
Perdue will be at Maria's Garden and Inn in Berkeley Springs today from noon until 2 p.m. for a town hall meeting to give local residents a change to ask questions about his campaign and his experience.
"It's a very interesting election. We're at a crossroads in this state. ... I really believe that the next governor must have a long-term plan for West Virginia," Perdue said. "We are sitting on another gold mine, the Marcelleus Shale. I come from the last gold mine. That was called black gold: coal. I believe it's critical that we put a plan together on how we manage our natural gas in this state."
Perdue said he's in favor of slowing down the permitting process and making sure our property rights and other natural resources are protected.
If elected governor, Perdue said he won't allow the gas drilling companies to threaten West Virginia with talk of lost revenue if the state regulates the industry or delays well development.
"This isn't going away. This is an investment we are sitting on here. ...," Perdue said. "Yes, the companies are telling us that if you do this, or you do that, we're going to leave the state. Well, I heard that same thing when I was growing up in the coal fields. The coal companies stayed here, they keep coming, they keep making billions of dollars, and the gas companies want to do the same thing with our natural gas," Perdue said. "We must protect our people, our infrastructure and our natural resources ... especially water. We have to stand our ground and get tough. I'm the person in this race with strong leadership ability and experience to do that."
Perdue has plans for the projected revenue from Marcelleus Shale. He would use it to help replace lost federal dollars for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects and to help pay down the OPEB debt.
He also would give part of the state revenue from the Marcelleus Shale directly to state taxpayers either through a tax break or a dividend check similar to what is done in Alaska.
Perdue stresses his experience, with 35 years of serving the people of West Virginia. He was elected treasurer in 1996 after serving eight years as a senior aide to Gov. Gaston Caperton. Under his leadership, Perdue said the state treasurer's office established the highly successful SMART529 College Savings Program, became a national leader by returning more than $100 million in unclaimed property and returned financial integrity back to the treasurer's office, which he said was a national laughing stock when he took office. Under his leadership, Perdue said the state achieved an AA1 bond rating.
Perdue said the state Treasurer's office has reduced the number of printed checks the state issues from 5 million annually to just 1 million a year, by promoting direct deposit and online bill paying.
"That's a tremendous savings," he said, explaining that a check routinely costs taxpayers an additional $35 from printing through processing to storage for records.
In terms of the Eastern Panhandle, Perdue said he would open a regional governor's office in the area. He would establish online video conferences between the Eastern Panhandle and Charleston to make it easier for residents to give testimony and make contact.
Perdue invites interested voters to visit his website - www.johnperdue.com - to see his ideas on education, Internet development, banking, utilities and other items.