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Justice vows to veto current GOP budget plan


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice gathered about two dozen senior officials from business, labor, education and nonprofits Monday to show the support he has for this budget plan.

Some of the governor’s remarks were a repeat of speeches he has recently given while trying to persuade legislators to abandon the Republican leadership’s budget plan and support his.

But there were some new developments.

Justice said the gap between his proposed combination of revenue increases and budget cuts and that of the Republicans’ has increased.

It stood at $45 million a week ago and stands at $200 million or more now, he said. The Legislature is continuing to work on a budget bill.

He also said if the Legislature sends him a budget that relies on severe cuts, he will veto it “in a millisecond.”

“If it comes back, I’ll veto it again,” he said.

If the Legislature overrides his veto, at least the public will know who will be responsible for cuts that could close parks and colleges and increase tuition for college students, Justice said.

“We’re getting ready to do something that’s as silly as can be,” he said.

“Get your sleeping bags ready. This isn’t going to get done. We’re going to be here forevermore.”

Republicans would rather let people die than raise taxes, Justice said.

“I think these people are committing political suicide,” Justice said. “You’ve got people that are probably good people at heart, but really they are thinking the wrong way.”

Among those at the table with Justice was Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Justice’s plan includes a commercial activities tax that the business community can live with, Roberts said.

“From a business point of view, we’re not asking for a free ride,” Roberts said. “We’re asking for a fair ride.”

Roberts said employers support “rescuing from what really is a crisis of generational proportions.”

Josh Sword, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, said organized labor also supports the governor’s budget plan.

“It’s an easy answer for us because the burden is not on working families,” he said.

Justice said his proposals can be “sunsetted,” meaning they could be signed into law with automatic reversals included to cancel them at a certain date. If enacted, they can get West Virginia on the “glidepath” to giving people hope and eradicating drug abuse, Sword said.

The governor said his proposed tax of 2 cents per can of soft drink wouldn’t drive business from West Virginia.

He also said he opposes restoring the sales tax on food because that hurts the weakest of the weak.

Others appearing in support of the governor included Rob Alsop, vice president of West Virginia University; Ginny Painter, senior vice president of Marshall University; Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association; Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Mike Clowser, executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia; Ike Morris, president of Waco Oil and Gas; and Steve Sarras, president of the West Virginia Kennel Owners Association.

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