CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When the issue of privatizing some state services came up during Tuesday's gubernatorial debate, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican challenger Bill Maloney took different roads.
"Privatizing roads is something people have looked at in other states," Maloney said. "There's a lot of things we need to look at that the private sector could probably do better."
While Tomblin called the state's privatization of workers' compensation insurance a success, he was reticent about privatizing other state programs or services. "There are a lot of things government does best," he said.
Asked to elaborate on Maloney's position on privatizing state toll roads, Maloney campaign manager Seth Wimer instead issued a statement saying in part, "We're most interested in privatizing Earl Ray Tomblin. That is our top priority."
Tomblin campaign spokesman Chris Stadelman said Maloney's position on road privatization shows he's out of touch with most West Virginians.
"The idea of selling our roads to for-profit companies is just another sign that Bill Maloney doesn't understand West Virginia, its residents or our state's issues," Stadelman said.
"Gov. Tomblin, as usual, is working with a bipartisan group of experts from around the state to come up with a responsible solution to ensure new highways are built and existing roads are properly maintained," Stadelman said, referring to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways appointed by Tomblin last month. "Bill Maloney thinks the answer is to create more out-of-state millionaires on the backs of West Virginians and our state's visitors."
Tuesday was not the first time Maloney proposed privatizing toll roads.
In an interview with the Beckley Register-Herald in the 2011 special election, Maloney discussed the possibility of privatizing the West Virginia Turnpike. "There might be someone out there who wants to buy that or lease that," he said at the time.