HNN Staff

Campaigns for high office inevitably get more interesting, even explosive as election day nears.  Certainly, that is the case in the current Republican primary contest as six GOP candidates vie for our attention. 

With only two weeks left before Primary Election Day on Saturday, May 14th, the fur is beginning to fly between two of the leading candidates for the GOP nomination, Bill Maloney and Betty Ireland.  While we have decried the personal attacks back and forth between these two, the issue they have been squabbling about deserves some attention.

The huge bundle of unfunded liabilities that the State of West Virginia is saddled with, nicknamed "OPED," is a very legitimate cause for concern. Like the debt that the federal government is wrestling with in D.C., the $8 billion in unfunded liabilities will start to seriously inhibit our state's budget in years to come unless a plan is developed now to deal with this enormous ball and chain.

In interviews with the Charleston Daily Mail this week, Betty Ireland suggested diverting some existing funds from the state's severance tax to help pay down some of this enormous debt.  Yes, that is money that could conceivably be used for other items in the state's budget, but Ireland was obviously attempting to show that she took the unfunded liability seriously and was developing a sincere plan to start dealing with it.

However, the Maloney campaign found fault with this, somehow suggesting that Ireland would be solving this problem through a "liberal tax and spend" policy.  Nevermind that the funds are already coming into the state's coffers.  Ireland is correct in saying that she would be raising no new taxes at all but would be merely diverting existing funds to this priority item.  

Greg Thomas is a chief adviser to Maloney's campaign.  Thomas is perhaps best known for his service to former Massey CEO Don Blankenship.  Perhaps Blankenship, who undoubtedly didn't like the severance tax on coal, is giving political newbie Bill Maloney some advice on the matter via Greg Thomas.   After all, Blankenship once tried hard to take over the WV GOP by electing more of his kind of legislators. Maybe in his forced retirement, Blankenship needed a new hobby:  controlling a new Republican Governor.

On the other hand, Maloney may really believe what his young spokesman is saying on this issue.  That's completely fair--differences on public policy agreements are the stuff of political campaigns.

However, the people rightly expect an alternative solution if a candidate disagrees with another candidate's proposal.  Here is what the Maloney camp gave us on this issue, as reported by Daily Mail reporter Ry Rivard:

"Asked what specific plan Maloney had for dealing with the debt, campaign spokesman Matt Dabrowski didn't provide details."

With that, Maloney has lost this set in his ongoing tennis match with Betty Ireland, and it wasn't even a close 6-4 or 6-3.  Rather, Ireland has smoked the new kid on the block easily 6-0.  Why?

Because she had the courage to take on a tough problem, just as has other GOP gubernatorial candidates like Clark Barnes, Mark Sorsaia, and Mitch Carmichael. They all know this is serious business. 

Secondly, she defended her position well, because she knew the facts, unlike her opponent, Mr. Maloney.

Third, Ireland is spot on when said after Maloney's substanceless attack that the public is tired of political games instead of serious solutions.   If the Maloney team can only throw spitballs at the frontrunner instead of producing any serious kind of alternative solution, then the Republican voters will conclude that Maloney just isn't ready for the challenge of being Governor.