By Woody Thrasher
Candidate for Governor
Gov. Jim Justice needlessly created confusion and a no-win situation for county commissioners when he granted $100,000 to each of our 55 counties to reward public employees who are responding to the coronavirus emergency. He called it “hero pay.”
He was wrong. Justice continually fails to understand government funds come with restrictions. Quite simply, the federal government does not give governors unbridled authority to use taxpayers’ money in whatever way they see fit. Justice should know that. He continually begs us all to trust him that federal dollars can be used to balance our state’s budget before the federal government has even outlined those regulations.
Some commissioners are speaking out with an excellent lesson in civics. They are pointing out Justice’s letter accompanying the grant does not say the funds should be used to reward public employees on the front lines. Instead, the governor’s letter says counties can use the funds only for purposes permitted under the federal coronavirus response bill. In other words, the governor said one thing; his letter said another.
Our communities deserve better from the state’s chief executive. He put counties in a difficult position at a most inopportune time. County commissioners know how government works. The governor obviously does not.
The problem doesn’t end there. Justice’s grant program awarded the same amount of money to the state’s most populous counties and its least populous counties. He told larger counties to find a way to make his idea work. He dropped this surprise on county commissions without any heads up or discussion.
A governor should work with county commissioners, not tell them what to do. Justice’s top-down management style is offensive and misguided. This is one more example of a part-time governor not doing his job – or not knowing how to do it. Enough is enough.
Election day approaches, and Justice is in full campaign mode. His grant of taxpayer money to the counties is a thinly disguised attempt to influence voters. I believe most voters realize that Justice is playing politics with taxpayer money. Haven’t we seen enough of that?
Elected county officials and their employees truly are among the heroes responding to the ongoing coronavirus threat to our citizens, businesses and communities. I appreciate them all and recognize the critical knowledge they possess about the counties they serve.
As governor, I pledge to always give our local communities not only attention and respect but also the cooperation and precise communication they all deserve.
Woody Thrasher is a Republican businessman from Bridgeport running for Governor.