CHARLESTON – Using a pile of bull manure on a silver platter as a prop, Gov. Jim Justice has vetoed the budget bill passed by the state Legislature.
Justice said the Fiscal Year 2018 budget plan given to him to sign “would do nothing but hurt West Virginians not help them.” He also called it a nothing more than “a bunch of political bull you-know-what.”
That means lawmakers will be called back into special session soon to offer up another budget plan.
“I’ve tried really hard for 60 days,” Justice said during an April 13 press conference. “I’ve been all over the state, and it’s taken a lot of energy. At the end of the day, we ended up nowhere.”
Justice was critical of the budget proposal that featured no teacher pay raise, no veterans retirement exemption and no additional tourism marketing funds. He also did like the cuts to programs for the poor, disabled and senior citizens that included $39.7 million in Medicaid cuts that would result in an additional $178 million loss of federal funds.
He also was critical of proposed cuts to colleges and universities, public education, horse racing purse funding, elimination of funding for the Women’s Commission, cuts to the Department of Corrections, the state Police and Public Broadcasting as well as no funding to combat the state’s drug epidemic.
Justice also wanted to see support for a road building program that he says would create 48,000 new jobs, an increase in the West Virginia Turnpike EZ-Pass rate to $8 and tiered severance tax on coal and gas. He also is opposed to the budget taking $90 million from “the already depleted” Rainy Day Fund.
“Now if what we’re going to do is still end up nowhere, then the decision is real simple,” Justice said. “I can just take the budget as it is now and sign it and sign our death certificate and then just say I’ve done everything that I know I can do.”
Justice also accused lawmakers of playing games and said they need to get serious.
“There is something that goes on in this great building that I don’t like,” he said. “We seem to think its ok to not tell the truth. We think we can just not tell the truth and that’s just politics. Or we think we can play games and its politics. There are people here that are a bunch of junkies and they love it. They live for it. They think its great stuff.
“But you know at the end of all the games there’s a name out there, there’s a family out there and we’re hurting them. We’re hurting them with the games. West Virginians deserve a budget that will allow them to prosper.”
The chairman of the state Republican Party said Justice is the one who wastes time with press conferences like the one he had April 13.
“This deeply unserious governor is at it again,” Conrad Lucas said. “Today, he threatens to shut down state government if he does not get his way on a massive tax increase. Justice now threatens our colleges and elderly instead of making the needed cuts to bloated spending programs. That's sad, and a false choice.”
Lucas said the Republican-led Legislature provided a balanced budget with small cuts to programs that “sadly now serve smaller populations as the War On Coal took its toll on our economy.”
“A veto by this governor is solely a tool through which he wants to raise our taxes, and will most likely shut down the government he is so busy trying to grow,” Lucas said. “It's sad to see Joe Manchin again pulling the puppet strings of this distracted governor.”
Lucas attacked Justice’s leadership style.
“Justice needs to focus on shrinking state government and paying his own voluminous overdue taxes and fines, not playing around with Marshall football,” he said. “We deserve an adult Governor who views this a full-time job in Charleston.”
State Senate President Mitch Carmichael said he is disappointed that Justice vetoed the budget bill.
“Today’s decision by Governor Justice isn’t entirely unexpected, but it’s nonetheless disappointing,” he said in a statement. “From the beginning, the Senate’s position has been to deliver a budget to the people of West Virginia that lives within its means, and to do that within the 60 days of the regular Legislative session. We lived up to this promise.
“While it was our hope that the governor would have signed our reasonable and responsible budget, it’s clear his vision for West Virginia’s future involves a completely different path.”
Carmichael said the Senate remains committed to working with Justice and the House of Delegates.
“However, any compromise on this budget absolutely must include comprehensive tax reform,” he said. “I truly believe tax reform is a bold way to move West Virginia forward, and I hope we will have the support of the House of Delegates and the governor to achieve this goal.”