By ANDREA LANNOM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Delegates and senators criticized Gov. Jim Justice’s lighting the State of Emergency lantern on top of the Capitol dome Wednesday, calling it a political ploy and disrespectful to victims of last summer’s floods.
The governor ordered the lantern lit Tuesday to highlight the state’s continuing budget crisis. He said it will burn 24 hours a day until the crisis is solved.
Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, called the governor out on this decision, saying it is a political ploy.
However, Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, spoke favorably of Justice, saying he believes Justice wants to see the state succeed.
He mentioned the budget countdown clock outside the governor’s office, saying he was not offended by that.
“It’s amusing when I come in to look at the thing and say, ‘we’ve got 18 days left.’ We’ve got to get something done. We are expected to get something done.”
Prezioso added that lawmakers should have a debate on the potential reductions to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, K-12 and higher education. He also said Justice wants to see specifics.
“He doesn’t want to see a conceptual budget that says agencies have to cut a certain amount of money,” Prezioso said. “He wants to see specifics.”
Prezioso said as lawmakers get to the final part of session, they don’t want to go into a special session like last year. He said he hopes for everyone to come together to work out something.
In the House, Delegate Jordan Hill, R-Nicholas, also criticized Justice. Hill said the State of Emergency lantern should only be lit when the state is “facing a genuine state of emergency,” such as last summer’s floods.
“It’s a symbol that the state is standing behind its people in a time of need,” Hill said. “It was a symbol of hope that not only shines at the top of the Capitol but through the countless acts of aid and volunteer efforts that happened in my district.”
He called the decision to light the lantern now a “political gesture” and a “sideshow.”
“It’s sullied the good meaning behind the lantern,” he said. “It’s using taxpayer property to bully us to raise taxes on our citizens.”
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