Governor Justice presented his fifth State of the State address to a joint session of the West Virginia Legislature, in which members were spread out and special guests were virtually present.
Justice reiterated a message he has stressed for four years, that he’s a businessman and a straight shooter. He explained when he took over in the Governor’s office West Virginia was broke. Four years later we’ve changed. The state isn’t near bankruptcy, and its image has improved. The Governor referred to it as a “miracle.”
He touted how the last four years have seen surpluses, money set aside for PEIA, new roads, feeding seniors, updating our state parks, and that all was going well until Covid-19 came along.
In his meandering style, he congratulated members of the legislature for having the courage to run for public office, about talking with Former President Donald Trump about stimulus efforts and the responsible moves the state made in response to Covid-19 before turning to his agenda.
In his plan, Justice unveiled to the legislature his goal of cutting the state’s personal income tax, which makes up $2.1 billion or almost half of the state’s budget. To account for the loss in revenue, the Governor plans to:
· revisit severance tax tiering for natural resource companies,
· increase the tax on cigarettes and soda pop,
· increase the consumer sales tax by 1.5% and eliminate exemptions, and
· create a luxury tax on West Virginia’s wealthiest individuals.
He said only $25 million in government cuts would be needed, and he told the members, “The door is right here. Follow this plan and opportunity will flash in front of you.”