CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Robert Kiss, who spent a decade as speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates and later served as state Department of Revenue secretary, has died, Gov. Jim Justice announced.
The cause of death of Kiss, 63, was not mentioned in a statement released by Justice on Friday night.
A Raleigh County Democrat, Kiss served in the House of Delegates from 1989 until 2007, including his final 10 years as speaker.
He later spent more than three years under Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin as secretary of the Department of Revenue, which oversees both tax collections and budget planning. Kiss also was a member of a Charleston law firm.
During his time in the House, Kiss was among a crop of state leaders who began to tackle state debts and funding gaps. He supported measures shoring up the pension fund for teachers, privatizing the state-run workers’ compensation system and gradually cutting taxes on groceries and corporate net income, among other initiatives. Kiss also championed proposals targeting insurance rates and prescription drug costs during his tenure.
“Bob exemplified the best of West Virginia and was dedicated to making the state the best it could be,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who worked with Kiss during his time as governor. “After nearly two decades serving the people of West Virginia, he leaves behind a lasting legacy.”
Justice said Kiss was an integral part of establishing West Virginia’s Rainy Day Fund and also helped start the state School Building Authority and Water Development Council.
“Speaker Kiss embodied the West Virginia spirit of devotion to serving others,” Justice said in a statement. “Speaker Kiss ensured first and foremost that West Virginia’s finances were on solid ground, and worked tirelessly to make sure West Virginia was in a better position than when he started. His legacy will not soon be forgotten.”