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Governor vetoes budget bill


The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Calling the budget passed by the West Virginia Legislature “a bunch of bull-you-know-what,” Gov. Jim Justice signed his veto on the bill.

Justice vetoed the budget in a press conference Thursday, using several props, with several agency and university representatives gathered around a table with him.

Saying the budget passed by the West Virginia Legislature was “a bunch of bull-you-know-what,” Gov. Jim Justice has vetoed the bill. He illustrated his stance with a graphic visual point.
(Photo by Andrea Lannom)

“This is how I see it. We don’t have a nothing burger today and we don’t have a mayo sandwich… We have a bunch of bull-you-know-what,” Justice said as he took the cover off a serving plate revealing a brown mass shaped to look like a cow patty over top of the budget bill. “And for that reason, I’m signing my veto on the budget bill.”

The $4.1 billion bill that passed both chambers in the West Virginia Legislature would have drawn more than $90 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“It cuts $90 million out of our Rainy Day Fund. Our rate holders have told us repeatedly that if we go down farther, they will downgrade us beyond belief,” Justice said.

It also takes $29 million from higher education, representing 8 percent cuts to Marshall and West Virginia universities, a 2 percent cut to West Virginia State University and Blue Ridge Community Technical College, and 4 percent cuts to all other state higher education institutions. This translates to about 1 to 2 percent reductions to universities’ overall budgets.

There also was a cut to the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Medical Services.

Justice said the budget would cause a $406 million deficit the next year.

“If what we’re going to do is still end up nowhere, the decision is simple. I can take the budget as it is now and sign it and sign the death certificate of our state and then say I’ve done everything I know I can do,” Justice said. “That’s what we would be doing. I would be signing our death certificate.”

Justice said Republican lawmakers asked him to veto the bill, a statement that Republican leadership disputed.

“Republicans who passed this called and said, ‘Surely you’re going to veto this.’ They don’t want to own it. They don’t want to go out in the world and say for all that, we want you to veto it and then we can say we didn’t have anything to do with raising taxes,” Justice said.

Justice also discussed talks between himself and Senate President Mitch Carmichael the last day of session. Saturday night, he held a press conference, saying he had reached a potential framework with Senate leadership. House members said they didn’t know anything of the framework until they saw the press conference.

“Here’s what happened,” he said. “The first thing that came down to me is that Democrats said they were not going to vote for it. They said there ain’t no way. I went up there and said, ‘What’s going on?’ They said, ‘You know, if we do this, we don’t really like the Republicans getting a one-up on us from a standpoint of tax reform.’”

Justice accused lawmakers of high school antics.

“It got into a situation where you’re walking down the hall of a high school and you looked at Betty Lou and smiled but she didn’t like it because you didn’t talk to her today,” Justice said.

Justice said he wanted to move away from politics to a term he coined “Jiminics,” and said legislators have to “stop the nonsense going on here.”

“We can disagree but you don’t have to tell lies,” he said. “They’re being childish. They’re being a bunch of babies. We don’t have to be treated in here like we’re royalty when people are suffering. We don’t have to be in high school, worrying about Betty Lou.”

After the press conference, Justice’s chief of staff Nick Casey expressed optimism that the House, the Senate and the governor would be able to come to a solution in a special session.

“The momentum is there now to get it done in a way where we all win. Everyone will hurt a bit but all together, we will win.”

Casey said in his view, the proposed framework with Senate leadership would take the state forward. He said the House didn’t have a chance to look at this pathway.

He said it was important to note the people who surrounded the governor in his press conference, mentioning in particular the CEO of Murray Energy along with university presidents.

“Everyone surrounding the governor broke into applause for his reason to veto,” he said. “They are with him on his pathway forward.”

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