Local legislators and others react to State of the State Address

CHARLESTON – Local legislators and a number of others offered their reactions to Gov. Jim Justice’s State of the State Address Wednesday evening. Here’s a look.

Senators, delegates and guests await the governor’s arrival.

House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor

“What stood out to me is that the governor has a lot of great ideas: What can we fund? What can we afford? What can we all agree on. … I like his ideas. I’m glad he’s being creative and trying to think of ways to solve problems. We need that. I think it was a very positive message and I’m excited to get started.”

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia

“I think there’s a lot of common ground.” Those issues include more money for secondary road work, supporting public education with raises and funding PEIA, and addressing the opioid problem.

He questions Justice’s intermediate court proposal. “I’m open to the discussion about an intermediate court, but it will cost a significant amount of money and if we devote that amount of money to it I want to be convinced it’s going to actually do something important.”

Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia

She agrees with Justice’s support for fixing the medical cannabis program and his support for public education. “I am very excited about Jim’s Dream {the program to tacking the opioid crisis through job training] and I’m excited that he’s going to have open dialog for finding ways where can reconstruct the whole foster care system.”

Kids are hurting, and that is stemming form the opioid crisis. “I’m really excited that there’s going to be more funding going to DHHR [for drug abuse treatment] because we don’t think of mental health as healthcare.”

She questions his opposition to adult-use cannabis. “If we get recreational cannabis legal in this state, we’re going to soar.” Income from that could go to fixing roads.

Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia

“I’m a big supporter of eliminating the Social Security tax,” and putting money into fixing secondary roads. “I don’t see any reason why we need to invest millions of dollars into an intermediate court of appeals.”

She disappointed he didn’t address healthcare or higher education. “It was kind of a hodgepodge.”

WVU President Gordon Gee

“I think that the governor is very focused on moving the state forward, but with very specific plans. I really liked his emphasis on education. I appreciate the fact that he’s really taking a look at tax reform.”

Tax is also part of the WVU-backed West Virginia Forward platform.

Justice concluded by saying he wants to do good for the state. “I like that because I think it resonates with every West Virginian.”

Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia

“I was glad that he brought recognition to the problem we’re having with transportation projects across the state of West Virginia. That’s an issue that’s very close to me. I think it’s very close to many people in north-central West Virginia.” The state needs to address not just paving but core projects of mowing and ditching.

He appreciates Justice wanting to address the drug crisis. “However, I will say I’m disappointed that he did not get into talking more about jobs. Our unemployment rate is still high. … I’m not too happy with him talking about eliminating the tax on inventory.” It may be a good plan but he offered no details.

Beach agrees with ending the Social security income tax. “I do appreciate the ffact that he always ends his conversations [saying] ‘I always want the best for West Virginia,’ because I believe, in his heart, that’s what he wants.”

Minority Leaders

Senate and House Minority Leaders Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and Tim Miley, D-Harrison, gave a joint press conference.

Prezioso: “I think what you saw tonight was a feel-good speech by a governor who has a tremendous ego. … The devil is in the details, obviously”

He agrees with eliminating the Social Security tax and promoting vocational-technical training.

He sees two main problems: “You’ve got a lot of ideas that amount to a lot of money. Is there going to be enough money in the budget to pay for it?” There’s a $184 million surplus now, half of which must go to rainy day. But Virginia pipeline worker are being laid off due to litigation stalling work, and that could ripple up here.

Miley: “I’m concerned about all the money that he’s spending with these various programs.” Surpluses don’t continue every year and this surplus is driven by an extraction boom. Justice will add more costs and bureaucracy through Jim’s Dream and the intermediate court proposal.

Miley is glad Justice wants to fix the medical cannabis program but the Democrat caucus supports legalizing adult use cannabis. Other statesare already going that way. “Quite frankly, as with most things, we’re going to be on the tail end of that if we don’t step up and do something about it and cause this state to be a place people want to come and live and create jobs through that industry alone.”

Eliminating the inventory tax will cost money and the caucus won’t support it without a dedicated funding stream. “Otherwise, you can bet your bottom dollar … the property owners will be the ones having to make up that difference.” The business tax climate is already better than surrounding states and 19th best in the nation.

Chamber leaders

Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw issued statements.

Carmichael: “Tonight, we heard a number of strong policy ideas from Gov. Justice. I was happy to hear that his goals for the Legislature this year include bills that will lower the tax burden on our senior citizens, create hope and a path to success for people who are recovering from addiction, and most importantly, keep his commitment to provide our public employees with another 5 percent pay raise and an additional $150 million to PEIA. I’m also excited to learn more details about the governor’s bills to create an intermediate court of appeals and to repeal the personal property tax on business inventory machinery, both of which are critical to moving our state forward.

“These ideas, coupled with the Senate’s plans to transform West Virginia’s educational system through bold reforms, will launch this state onto a trajectory of success and opportunity. I look forward to working with Gov. Justice to accomplish great things for this state and her people during this upcoming session.”

Hanshaw: “Gov. Justice laid out a bold, ambitious agenda this evening. He has many ideas I believe the House can embrace and our members will be excited to move forward on. We look forward to seeing more specific details of his proposals and expect we can work together to accomplish a great deal over the next 60 days to make West Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

Twitter David Beard @dbeardtdp Email David Beard at dbeard@dominionpost.com

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