Neighbors may be less fortunate

The Journal editorial

Almost undoubtedly, Jim Justice is the only governor in the United States who kept a beat-up old fishing tackle box and an ax in his personal car at all times.

As he told those listening to the speech he gave last Monday, after being inaugurated as governor of West Virginia, he did so for a reason.

He had encountered a woman who was selling the two items, along with many others, in order to pay her bills, Justice explained. He gave her $100 each for the tackle box and ax, which he displayed during his address.

“She was selling her life away, her memories, to just maybe have enough money to have food,” Justice said. “Listen. Things are tough a lot of places. I carry this tackle box and this ax in my car every day, because I want to remember her.”

Good, governor. All of us in the Mountain State — many blessed more than we admit — need to remember how many of our neighbors have not been so fortunate.

There are a lot of them. Our state has the worst workforce participation rate in the nation, hovering at around 50 percent. Our poverty rate, at 17.9 percent, also is among the worst. Our median household income, at $41,751, is far below the national average of $53,889.

And life is much tougher in some counties.

McDowell County could serve as the “poster child” for a place where many people have concluded there is little reason to be optimistic about the future. The poverty rate there is 34.5 percent, nearly twice the state average. The median household income is just $24,921.

Especially now, with Justice and state legislators considering tax increases to balance the state budget, it needs to be remembered the last thing West Virginians need is new burdens on businesses that keep them from creating new jobs or, even worse, prompt them to lay off employees they have.

And the last thing many Mountain State families need is new taxes that make it even tougher to pay the bills.

Carrying that ax and tackle box around was a good idea. Matter of fact, Justice ought to transfer them to his state vehicle — and perhaps carry them with him when he visits the Legislature.

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