By Jeffrey Saulton
Sales taxes, education and redistricting were among issues addressed Friday by gubernatorial candidate Rick Thompson in meeting with The Parkersburg News and Sentinel editorial board.
Thompson, D-Wayne, who is the speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates, said the main reason he is running to fill out the remainder of Sen. Joe Manchin's term of governor is to give West Virginia leadership.
"I've been running for this office for a year," he said. "It's not because there is an opportunity. We have an acting governor who was not elected and cannot get the job done.
"We need to move West Virginia forward, not tread water."
Thompson said having an acting governor who was not elected caused important legislation to not get through the House and Senate and allowed situations like the recent abrupt closing of the local Division of Motor Vehicles office to occur.
Thompson said he is the candidate who is pro-family and pro-business.
"For the past five years as speaker I have fought for families and for business," he said. "We need to be pro-family and pro-business to help everyone, they go hand-in-hand."
Thompson said the only way to improve the education system in the state is to listen to the professional and service staff.
"I've worked hard all my life. There were teachers who worked with me and knew education was the key to a better life," he said. "My commitment is to improve education so every child will have the opportunity for a better life."
Thompson said teachers need to be treated as professionals and government needs to listen to them and what needs to be done.
"In many cases we have the smart boards still in boxes because no one has shown the teachers how to use them and no one knows how to repair them," he said. "The teachers and other staff can tell us what needs to be done."
Thompson said eliminating the sales tax on food would be a priority if elected governor.
"When I'm governor the sales tax on food will be down to zero," he said. "I built a consensus to gradually abolish the tax; there were some who wanted to eliminate gradually and those who wanted to take it off all at once.
"A governor who can build a consensus will just take off."
Thompson said he would like to see an investigation launched into the closing of the Parkersburg DMV office. He said he sees it as a workplace safety issue, an issue close to him since his father died in a coal mine roof collapse.
"There was no notice to the public or the employees; that is not the way it should have gone," he said. "We need a full investigation as to why it was known about since November and nothing was done. Workplace safety is very important to me."
Thompson said it is too early to discuss the redistricting from the 2010 census data. He said the only thing that has been done is to set up a committee that will make recommendations to the Legislature.
"This will be a 30-member committee and everybody wants to be on this," he said. "This will take place in July or August as part of a special session. They may look at single-member delegate districts or not go that way for all."
Thompson said the committee's work will be done in a transparent manner.
Before he was elected to the House of Delegates, Thompson was an assistant prosecuting attorney in Wayne County. He served in the U.S. Army and went to college on the GI bill. He earned his undergraduate degree from Marshall University and his law degree from the West Virginia University College of Law.