By PHIL KABLER
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is one of eight governors to garner a grade of “F” for fiscal policies in a biennial report card released Tuesday by the conservative Cato Foundation.
In the “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors 2018,” the conservative think tank faulted Justice for proposing major tax increases in his 2017 State of the State address, for enacting about $140 million a year in higher motor vehicle fees and taxes to finance his $1.6 billion road bond initiative, and for agreeing to across-the-board pay raises for teachers, school service personnel, and state employees to resolve the statewide teachers’ walkout earlier this year.
“On the campaign trail, Justice implied that he would not raise taxes, but in his first budget he proposed tax hikes of $400 million annually,” the report states. “He proposed to increase the state’s sales tax rate from 6.0 percent to 6.5 percent and to create a new “commercial activities tax” on business gross receipts. Those tax changes did not pass, but Justice did sign into law a package of transportation-related taxes and fees, including increased taxes and fees on gasoline, vehicle registration, vehicle sales, and drivers’ licenses. Those increases will raise about $140 million annually.”
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