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Justice expects decision this week on putting gas tax holiday before the Legislature

MORGANTOWN – Gov. Jim Justice said on Monday he should have a decision on a gas tax holiday by his next press briefing, which will probably be Wednesday.

He also sounded off on a Wallet Hub Survey where the state fared poorly, and on gun control measures.

His briefings are characterized as COVID updates, and there was also a bit of COVID news.

Justice mentioned the tax holiday in a question about a possible special session during legislative interims, set for June 12-14, to appropriate surplus funds and American Rescue Plan money.

The statewide average gas price for regular was $4.63 on Monday ($4.72 in Monongalia County), according to AAA.

Justice said he expects to have a decision on including the holiday in a special session call by Wednesday. “If there’s a way to help a little bit … I don’t think it would be detrimental to us,” he said, hearkening back to his early concerns it could take money from road paving.

Maybe a holiday for a month, he said. It may not help a lot for people who only fill up once or twice a month, but it could help some.

Later in the day, Democratic legislative leaders announced an 11 a.m. Tuesday press conference on the topic. They have been pushing for a holiday since mid-March.

Justice also fielded a question on Wallet Hub’s 2022 Best & Worst State Economies, which ranked West Virginia at 51st, dead last, based on 28 metrics under three categories: economic activity, economic health and innovation potential.

Four of the top five states are blue states: Washington first; California, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, third, fourth and fifth. Red Utah ranked second.

Justice pointed out the prevalence of blue states in the top ranks and said, “You’re dealing with a bunch of liberal fruitcakes. … It’s just political garbage.”

California has smog, brownouts, water shortages, “taxes out the ying-yang,” but they’re at the top, he said.

West Virginia, meanwhile, has budget surpluses, record low unemployment, evolving economic diversification and beautiful scenery, he said. “If this is the worst in the nation, this is where I want to be.”

Justice had been expecting a question on red flag laws regarding gun buys and decided to again address the topic. He disagrees with President Biden on just about everything, he said. “You talk about polar opposites, we are on polar opposite ends, period.”

Red flag laws have problems, he said. We need due process direction, a judge to decide before anything is done.

He thinks 18 is too young for gun ownership but people that age go to war. Assault-style rifles should be limited to age 21 and up, but not banned. “Will that solve anything, I don’t think so.”

The real answer, he said, is a comprehensive discussion about all the causes. Kids are exposed to pornography, profanity-laced music, violent video games, social media bullying. It all takes a toll on them. “Are we willing to do something about that?”

He wants safer schools and would welcome armed guards in them, he said.

But if all that’s done is passing a few of Biden’s gun-control measures, as an exercise in just doing something, “then all we’re doing is putting a Band-aid on cancer. … It will just get worse.”

On the COVID front, positive cases continue a slow but steady climb, from 2,117 on June 1 to 2,547 Monday morning. Hospital cases are below the February peak of 1,097 but also steadily climbing again, from 77 in April to 192 Monday.

Fewer people are getting vaccinated each day but the total number steadily grows – with 952,168 people now fully vaccinated. “We still continue to slow but sure crawl along,” Justice said.

Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad said the National Center for Health Statistics is transitioning to a new coding system, and all 50 states will see effects. Here, COVID and drug overdose death numbers will be reported more slowly for the next two weeks, until NCHS completes the transition on June 20.

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