Doyle talks Rockwool, taxes and more at Town Hall meeting
SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Dec. 19, newly-elected Delegate John Doyle held a Town Hall meeting at the War Memorial Building in Shepherdstown, to take questions from his constituents and share his plan of action for the upcoming legislative session.
With more than 75 people in attendance, the topics at the meeting ranged from Rockwool to taxes, from marijuana to MARC trains.
Doyle, whose publicly-declared stance in opposition of the proposed Rockwool facility in Ranson helped win his election, shared at the meeting his belief that if the plant comes, it will “cause emotional rancor for a generation.”
According to Doyle, “You can’t change state law [to] stop what’s happened, but what comes in the future.”
That comment followed his explanation, that the problem allowing Rockwool to come to Ranson is an issue in the state planning laws that allows zoning in unincorporated areas, but those zoning laws don’t cross into municipal areas.
“Ranson can do what it wants,” Doyle said.
With that said, Doyle still contends the Rockwool project is not a foregone conclusion.
“I don’t think it’s a done deal. Even if it is, I’ve seen done deals come undone,” Doyle said. He likened Rockwool to the PATH and TRAIL lines proposed to go through the county several years ago that were halted by public opposition.
In addition to Rockwool, the issue of MARC train service was one of much discussion. Doyle indicated he had been to a couple of meetings already regarding the MARC train service into West Virginia.
“I am not encouraged. Resources need to come from the state,” he told those gathered, saying that Delegates [Craig] Blair and Sen. [Patricia] Rucker have basically said “no state funds for MARC.”
Doyle informed the group that Blair has been named chair of the state finance committee and Rucker the head of education.
“With this kind of power over here, if we don’t do something to try to stabilize MARC trains, they will have some explaining to do,” Doyle touted.
Mark Everhart, a member of the Shepherdstown Town Council, pointed out that Sen. Rucker has not said that she is opposed to MARC funding.
“What she has said, which is true,” Everhart said, “is that it will be hard to get funding for something that affects three counties and where southern West Virginia isn’t affected.”
Doyle confirmed that Rucker had not openly said she was opposed to the funding, while Blair had done so. He also said federal funding should be analyzed, such as the funding which goes to Maryland.
“We can make an argument that the federal government pay some because workers riding are federal employees,” Doyle said.
The topic of paying was one that arose regarding taxes throughout the evening’s discussion. Doyle said he has already been working on drafting legislation that will double the severance tax on natural gas.
A question on social security tax had Doyle saying, “We can’t afford to not tax social security. It would leave a heft hole in the budget if we eliminated the social security tax.”
According to Doyle, tax on gas at the pumps likely won’t be reduced. He said the long interstates running through West Virginia, such as 77 and 79, are so long that travelers are forced to stop in the state to purchase gas. It outweighs what the state loses from Eastern Panhandle residents traveling to neighboring states to purchase less-expensive fuel.
Doyle did say that personal property tax needs to be evaluated, since only about 12 states have the tax.
“But we need to find money to replace any loss,” Doyle said.
A staunch proponent of recreational marijuana use, Doyle said the state could garner significant revenue if the laws were changed to allow growing and selling of the drug.
“The best way to clear out the bottleneck of medical marijuana is to by making recreational use legal,” Doyle said. “There is a good growing climate here. We could count on a minimum of $50 million.”