Governor Jim Justice’s State of the State address brought a mixed bag of reactions Wednesday night. And from the majority party, it wasn’t exactly a happy one.
A lot of things were different in Governor Justice’s State of the State address Wednesday. It could be said his speech was unique compared to past governors. For one, he gave his speech out on the floor instead of at the House Clerk’s desk. Two, he used a whiteboard to break down some of the proposals in his speech and even had some volunteers walk in to demonstrate a part of the presentation.
His speech was colorful, and he used stories and descriptions to get his points across. However, it was his proposal on ways to balance the state budget that had many in the majority party concerned.
Justice proposed almost $30 million in cuts, but also proposed a number of tax increases – a gasoline tax, a DMV tax, an increase in the sales tax – that House and Senate leadership say they will not support as presented.
House Speaker Tim Armstead says Justice made promises on the campaign trail that he’s breaking in his budget proposal.
“You know, the governor campaigned on the fact that the people of West Virginia were overtaxed and that we needed to reduce the size of government,” Armstead said, “and yet, here we have a budget that’s been submitted that has roughly $28 million in cuts, which is much less than we were even talking about last summer, and significant tax increases that I think are going to have a really hard time getting through this process in the House and I believe in the Senate.”
House Minority Leader Tim Miley, however, says he was pleased with what he heard from Justice.
“We have a governor who said he was going to bring bold ideas, and that’s what we heard this evening,” Miley noted, “I mean, we heard a governor talk about options we have. We can either continue digging the hole deeper and cutting and cutting and cutting and not moving forward at all, or we can decide to take some bold steps and try to raise revenue and create thousands of jobs.”
While Miley says he likes what he heard, he also says he would want to look more thoroughly at the numbers before saying he’d definitely support the proposals.
Like Armstead, Senate President Mitch Carmichael also says he’s disappointed with the tax increases, saying he didn’t see much promise in Justice’s budget proposals.
“I would not characterize them as bold ideas,” Carmichael said, “This is a tired, worn out, old hat strategy of; it resembles governments of the past in which, rather than overhauling and energizing this state government, you simply raise taxes on the poorest people in America.”
Even though both House and Senate leadership had some major issues with Justice’s proposals regarding the budget, they were happy with other areas, such as the regulatory reforms and the public education overhaul.