By JANET METZNER
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State funding cuts proposed by Republicans hurt actual people, Gov. Jim Justice said, scolding the state’s “basketful of Republicans” as taking “scalps.”
“Those 14 scalps hurt people, guys,” he said, as part of the warfare metaphor he presented this morning to media, media group executives and legislators who attended the West Virginia Press Association’s annual legislative breakfast in Charleston. “We do not need scalps to be able to get there.”
Although Justice urged West Virginians to offer “respect and love” to Republicans for what they are trying to do, he praised Democrats’ efforts to support his budget proposal for FY2017-18, which includes $450 million in tax increases.
“You should really give them their due, because they’re trying,” he said of Democrat leaders.
Republicans, including Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, have criticized Justice’s tax increases as too numerous, and eventually harmful to the economy.
Both Armstead and Carmichael also spoke at this morning’s event.
Justice described Democrats’ efforts in supporting his budget as honorable. “Today you’ve got a basketful of Democrats that are willing to step out … and be West Virginians, and truly, truly boldly step-out and say ‘we need to not cut our people more, we’ve got to really raise revenue and lay on some level of taxes,’”Justice said.
“It takes courage to do that, because your constituents may very well just stand back and throw rocks at you, right?”
Justice urged legislators to first and foremost be West Virginians, rather than partisan, and to work toward progress.
“If you’ve got people standing in the way of progress, they’ve gotta get out of the way,” he said.
Justice previously had been a Republican. He said he chose to run for office as a Democrat because “I was and am more in tune with the average, everyday West Virginian that’s really hurting.”
The problem with the Republican Party is that they support more cuts. “We cut this, we cut that,” he said of past gubernatorial administrations. “Everything you do, something that cuts, it’s somebody. It’s a family,” he said. “That somebody might decide to go to Tennessee, and our revenue is smaller.”
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