Brianne Larisse Solomon (D)
Education: M.A., Marshall University
Occupation: Fine Art Department chair, Hannan Junior-Senior High School
Q: What would you do to ensure that West Virginia protects communities from adverse environmental and public health impacts of the rising natural gas industry?
A: West Virginia must diversify our economy and grow it in a responsible way that works for our local communities, lifts up our people and protects our West Virginian way of life, whether it’s safe, clean drinking water, or safe, clean air. But, like many West Virginians, I’ve had enough of out-of-state corporations coming here and not being good neighbors.
Q: What legislation would you push to diversify West Virginia’s economy?
A: Legislation focused on all aspects of education. We need to continue to increase teacher pay, fully fund PEIA, increase classroom funding, reverse cuts to higher education, create training programs so students who don’t plan on attending college can learn a skill and have the opportunity to earn a living wage, and bring back vocational training classes to our middle schools.
Q: How should West Virginia fund PEIA?
A: Matching Texas’ natural gas taxation rate at 7.5 percent is a start, but is not a permanent solution to fully funding PEIA. If we don’t allocate a permanent source, we will just continue kicking the can down the road and will have to deal with funding issues. Also, we cannot continue cutting taxes for rich West Virginians instead at the expense of working families, retirees and our seniors.
Daily Mail Opinion:
Q: Do you support the current practice of “civil asset forfeiture,” whereby state law enforcement can seize property from citizens even if they are never charged with a crime?
A: I support civil forfeiture as a whole; however, unfortunately, civil asset forfeiture is also used as a way to generate revenue for law enforcement — even when its targets are innocent members of our communities. That is unacceptable. Especially since the success rate of winning back your property, even if you are found innocent of a crime, is low.
Q: Should West Virginia join the 43 other states that allow students to attend public charter schools?
A: No. In a rural state such as ours, charter schools would take even more funding away from our public school systems because funding is based on student enrollment. Students living in West Virginia’s highest poverty-stricken counties would be subjected to a substandard education. All West Virginia students have a right and are deserving of a free, quality public education.
Q: Should the severance tax on natural gas (currently at 5 percent) be raised, lowered, or kept the same?
A: I believe it should be raised. The shirt on our backs is taxed at a higher rate that the gas extracted from our state and shipped elsewhere, ultimately leaving West Virginia in the same situation it’s facing now with regards to coal. We have what these out-of-state gas companies need and want. They will pay for it.
Jim Butler (R) did not respond to our survey.