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Governor Will Hold Mediation Session To Solve Budget Differences

As mediator-in-chief, Governor hopes to iron out concerns

Justice will meet separately with all sides to finalize deal

The Free Press WV

Today, Governor Justice will meet with the Senate President, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the House Minority Leader in four separate rooms and travel from room to room as the mediator-in-chief. Justice wants to better understand the positions of each side.

Governor Justice welcomes and appreciates that all of the parties are willing to participate in the mediation to get to a hopeful resolution for the betterment of the people of West Virginia.

The Governor recognizes that everyone needs to get on the same page, including income tax reform, roads, veterans, the sales tax, etc. The mediation meetings will take place tomorrow at the state Capitol.

“I want to get this budget deal done, and a mediation session will hopefully help us get there,” said Governor Justice. “We are all West Virginians and we all want a path forward that will help our people. Rarely has West Virginia had this opportunity in the midst of a terrible crisis; we don’t want to lose this moment.”

WV Lawmakers Make Progress on Needed Revenue

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Legislature is getting closer to securing the revenue the state needs. But Ted Boettner, executive director with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, says lawmakers aren’t there yet.

Bills have passed in the House and Senate that would increase state revenue by as much as $150 million, mostly through raising and expanding the sales tax. But Boettner said they’re still $100 million short for this fiscal year - and even more for next year.

“There is a tremendous amount of unfinished business. If they don’t address it this year, it’s highly unlikely they will next year during an election year,” Boettner said. “And at that point you’re going to talk about major cuts to Medicaid, closing down several universities.“

Boettner said next year’s shortfall could be $140 million, depending on new revenue forecasts due this week. Some lawmakers have called for many more cuts to balance the budget. But Boettner noted that after years of budget tightening, even the Legislature has been unable to come up with enough politically viable cuts to close the gap.

Lawmakers are due back in Charleston on Tuesday.

With the revenue bills that look likely to pass, the state’s budget crisis seems to be approaching a more manageable level. And Boettner said he’s pleased the House is firmly opposed to what he called the “foolish plan” to phase out the state income tax when the state is running in the red.

Senate leaders had argued that enough revenue would come from additional growth sparked by the tax cuts to make up for the losses. But Boettner said House leaders recognized that as a false hope.

“Fortunately, the House rejected the Senate’s offer to cut the income tax by 20 percent and repeal it. The House would like to instead focus on the sales tax,” he said.

The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy has long argued that the state should raise the taxes on tobacco and sugary drinks. But Boettner said that doesn’t seem likely now.

“But when it comes to soda and cigarettes, unfortunately they haven’t looked upon those again to raise,” he said. “But that would be a step in the right direction that would not only bring in revenue, but also improve our state’s health.“

The governor has yet to add the budget to the list of items that can be discussed during the current special session. Right now, discussions are limited to the revenue side.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Governor Justice and the Crocodile Comments

The Free Press WV

In short order, Governor Jim Justice has become known for extended metaphors he uses when he speaks.

Dogs enter almost every conversation. He’s talked about rattleshakes. He’s described a student walking around with a raccoon. He’s talked about mayonnaise sandwiches and nothingburgers.

On Wednesday, as the governor spoke to the House of Delegates, the imagery was a crocodile.

Justice used the metaphor to describe the difficult situation the state finds itself in. Somehow, popular chain restaurants also became part of the discussion, apparently as a way to encourage lawmakers to worry about the trouble at hand.

“You’ve got your leg jammed down a crocodile’s mouth, and absolutely you’re trying to figure out whether you’re going to Wendy’s or Applebee’s tonight,” Justice said.

“You best better worry about the crocodile that’s about to inhale you. Because that’s what you’ve got.”

A few minutes later, the governor re-upped on the crocodile metaphor, saying the state needs to make bold moves if it hopes to change its perilous financial situation. He was trying to put lawmakers at ease about any fiscal uncertainty his approach could create in future years.

The governor also mixed in a quick reference to a male appendage.

“We’ve got our leg in a crocodile’s mouth,” Justice said. “Maybe it works, and if it works we go straight to the roof. We do wonderful. If it doesn’t work and we’ve got our foot in the crocodile’s mouth in 2021 or 2022.

“But right now we’ve got our whole leg in the crocodile’s mouth. And if you’re men and he gets ready to bite, it’s going to hurt more than your leg. If you hear what I said.”

~~  Brad McElhinny ~~

JUSTICE: Remember Who Brung You To This Terrible Dance

A column by Governor Justice

The Free Press WV

The special session will resume on Monday, May 15. The goal remains the same: pass a budget that will put West Virginia on a pathway to prosperity.

But what we have to understand is there is something that is being terribly forgotten here. The political class is missing the point. I don’t want West Virginians missing the point. We need to quit being so preoccupied with a proposal and first remember how disastrous today’s condition is in our state. We must remember that we’re 50th in way too many areas. We need to remember how bad things truly are.

The budget that was sent to me last month that was passed by the House and the Senate did these things:

  • Eliminated a 2% pay raise for teachers
  • Cut the budgets for our State Police and Corrections
  • Denied a tax break for our veterans
  • Hampered our institutions of higher learning—forcing them into a position to make hurtful cuts and dramatically increase tuition
  • Cut our K-12 public schools
  • Reduced funding for the sick and disabled
  • Provided no real funding to address the drug epidemic
  • Walked away from our unions and building trades and 48,000 immediate, new jobs
  • Didn’t help coal by tiering the severance tax that boosts the industry when times are bad but greatly would help the state when times are good
  • Provided no funds for tourism and marketing our state
  • Blocked an opportunity to have our income tax lowered
  • Stopped West Virginians from driving on our toll roads for free

A budget was passed that was horrible beyond belief.

When I took office in January, I inherited a $500 million dollar budget deficit. That was the result of the same old political gimmicks that just kick the can so politicians won’t have to make a tough decision— or any decision at all. It’s the same playbook that’s left us 50th in everything. What the Legislature’s been doing for years and years just hasn’t worked— just look around.

So sure, we can debate the proposal that the Senate and I completely endorse, but it is totally unfair to forget the magnitude of the hole and how bleak it really is.

We are in a heck of a mess and a catastrophe for West Virginia is about to happen. I’m trying to stop it.

I’ve worked with both sides to put forward a plan that will create 48,000 jobs, reform the state tax code, protect our schools and most vulnerable citizens from devastating cuts, give our veterans a tax cut, fix all of our potholes, and give our teachers a pay raise. It will not require ONE penny from the Rainy Day fund.

We need jobs, yet I read in the newspaper where one journalist says that there will be so many jobs created through our plan that West Virginians won’t be able to fill them all and workers from out of state will have to be brought in.

Really? Too many jobs versus no jobs? Bad roads versus good roads? Do we want the jobs and the opportunity to employ people or do we want to just keep watching West Virginians move away from our state to find jobs elsewhere? That’s crazy thinking!

The plan I’ve put forward has been fine-tuned by working with both sides of the aisle. It’s not a Democratic plan or a Republican plan; it’s a West Virginia plan. It will save our state, cut taxes, control spending, balance the budget, and put our people to work. I’ve spoken privately with many Republicans in the House and Senate and I’m confident these people want to do the right thing. The Democrats have courageously and overwhelming supported our plan to bring opportunity and prosperity.

However, just last week I found myself totally baffled by what took place when the Legislature was in session. On one end of the hall, 100 percent of the Republicans in the Senate were in support of our plan and voted that way. When the legislation went to the other end of the hall, without even reading it, all but two of the House Republicans said no.

History is being made by the Legislature and it’s not something I think they want West Virginians to remember them for—again, crazy.

The choice before the Legislature in the special session is either recovery or death for our state. There was a good bipartisan plan on the table, and it’s past time for us all to work together for the good of all West Virginians to deliver a great budget, an opportunity for all.

The special session costs taxpayers $35,000 per day. I sent up legislation that provided no pay if we went beyond five days in a special session. It never got out of committee.
It’s now up to the House and Senate to move quickly. The longer they wait, the longer it will take to bring new jobs here.

West Virginians are hurting and can’t afford to wait. We need a responsible budget passed ASAP so our people can go to work.

Never forget who BRUNG YOU TO THIS TERRIBLE DANCE. It wasn’t Governor Jim Justice. In fact he just got here, and in fact he’s trying with everything in him to fix it.

If this fails, our state is doomed.


Jim Justice
The 36th Governor of West Virginia

G-OpEd™: Painkiller Alternatives May Reduce Risk of Prescription Opioid Abuse

The Free Press WV

Opioid abuse is devastating our state, and too often it starts with something as seemingly harmless as the prescription of an opioid-based pain medication.

Powerful painkillers, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, are prescribed to provide temporary relief, but do nothing to address the source of pain.

Long-term prescription opioid use creates a tremendous problem where patients develop a tolerance and dependence for pills that share characteristics similar to heroin. This ultimately turns one’s search for temporary relief into addiction, accidental overdose, coma and death.

West Virginia tops the list for overdose deaths in the nation, and this cycle must change. The answer lies with patients and prescribers choosing safer, non-narcotic alternatives.

That’s why my office created the first substance abuse fighting unit by an Attorney General in West Virginia. It promotes a focused effort on enforcement, prevention through education and the pursuit of alternative treatments for injury or pain.

The process must begin with a thorough physical examination and the prescriber considering every available alternative to opioid medication. The price of anything less is potential addiction, overdose and death.

Patients must feel empowered to ask for non-opioid based medication and treatment.  These options include physical and occupational therapy, chiropractic medicine, massage therapy, acupuncture and over-the-counter medication.

Such a strategy follows our office’s best practices for prescribing and dispensing opioid drugs. This initiative garnered support from more than 25 national and state stakeholders. It also laid the foundation to cut prescription opioid use by more than 25 percent.

But the key to achieving that goal is use of non-opioid alternatives. Highly addictive pills can no longer be the first choice in treating aches and pain.

Physical and occupational therapy, non-medication approaches to physical rehabilitation and improving functionality, offers an interdisciplinary approach to pain management that focuses on physical, social and emotional health. In some cases, the technique has been shown to improve a patient’s overall health by assessing performance issues in everyday living.

Chiropractic care and doctor-initiated osteopathic manipulation therapy have been shown to be as effective as exercise therapy or standard medical care for pain, particularly for lower back pain. This type of treatment also improves functionality in the case of injury.

Massage therapy has proven effective in the short-term management of pain, particularly pain isolated to one area of the body such as the lower back or neck. One clinical study found few adverse effects resulting from massage as a pain management technique.

Acupuncture offers short-term comfort as well as increased functionality of the injured body part, according to some studies. One study found patients undergoing total joint replacements reported feeling a 45 percent reduction in pain after receiving acupuncture treatments.

Over-the-counter pain medications are shown often to be more effective in treating pain than medications that can lead to addiction or death. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen or a combination of the two readily-available pain relievers can reduce pain without the risk of addiction and can be prescribed in larger doses as needed.

These non-opioid alternatives provide West Virginians a much safer option. They also cut down on the selling or sharing of pills, and prevent medications from accidentally falling into the wrong hands – such as those of a child.

Our goal is to reduce misuse of prescription medication while preserving legitimate patient access to necessary treatment, such as active cancer treatments or palliative and end-of-life care.

My office will not relent in working toward a healthier, drug-free West Virginia.

Our state has a great deal of potential, but drugs decimate our workforce, shatter ambitions born in adolescence, rip families apart and leave too many to mourn the passing of those who overdosed one too many times.

With caution, education – and a sensible approach to pain management – I have faith that West Virginia can curb its opioid epidemic and we can build a safer, brighter future for our state.

Patrick Morrisey is the Attorney General of West Virginia.

Obamacare Repeal No Panacea for Republicans

The Free Press WV

The four Republicans in West Virginia’s Congressional delegation (Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Congressmen David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins) have all pushed for repealing Obamacare.

House Republicans fulfilled that campaign promise last week by narrowly passing (217-213) The American Health Care Act. However, for some Republicans, the action feels like the barking dog has finally caught the car it was chasing.

For example, 3rd District Representative Jenkins clearly has reservations.  “This was a tough call,” he told me on Talkline last week.  “Is it a perfect solution? No,” he said.  “It goes to the Senate. Work will continue.  Doing nothing wasn’t an option.”

It sounds like Jenkins and a number of his fellow Republicans can scratch “Repeal Obamacare” off their To Do lists, but they are also hoping the Senate will save them from themselves. The issues are particularly sensitive in West Virginia, where the population is older, sicker and poorer.

The Medicaid Expansion program has over 170,000 West Virginians enrolled, with the federal government picking up a larger share of the cost than the typical reimbursement. However, under the Republican plan the federal government will reduce funding for expanded coverage after 2019, leading to an expected decline in coverage.

When supporters of the replacement say no one on Medicaid will lose their coverage they are technically correct.  However, the system has a certain amount of churn, so as the Washington Post Fact Checker reported, “If they try to get back into the system, however, the planned reductions in funding may mean they no longer find themselves eligible for the program, or that their benefits have been scaled back.”

Also, the Kaiser Family Foundation says the AHCA allows for higher out-of-pocket costs for older people. “Generally, people who are older, lower-income, or live in high-premium areas (like Alaska and Arizona) receive less financial assistance under the AHCA,” Kaiser reports.  “Additionally, older people would have higher starting premiums.”

Congressman Jenkins is correct that doing nothing was not an option because the exchanges are flawed. There simply are not enough young healthy people willing to pay skyrocketing premiums and out-of-pocket expenses to subsidize the sickest people or those with pre-existing conditions.

The alternative high-risk pool makes sense, as long as it’s fully funded.  As columnist Holman Jenkins wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “By giving new options to the states, the House bill would make subsidizing pre-existing conditions a general obligation of the taxpayer as it always should have been.”

Republicans banked for years on “Repeal and replace Obamacare” as an instant applause line, but West Virginia has quickly become dependent on Obamacare to provide coverage for a large chunk of the population, and many providers prefer the known of existing law to the unknown of the legislative process.

Controlling Medicaid costs and making premiums more actuarially sound make fiscal sense, but they are going to be a hard sell in West Virginia and elsewhere.  Government benefits build constituencies and expand government power. Those trends are not easily reversed.

~~  Hoppy Kercheval ~~

State Budget Impasse. Now What?

The Free Press WV

The special session of the West Virginia Legislature has recessed until May 15. Lawmakers met for two days to consider the latest budget-related proposals, but could not reach a consensus.

The revenue measure agreed to by the Senate and the Governor lowered income tax rates, but raised the consumer sales tax, corporate income tax and added a wealth tax. Separate, but related, is a plan to increase gasoline taxes and DMV fees to fund road repairs and construction.

The House quickly voted down the revenue package along party lines. The Senate took up the bill anyway and passed it 32-1, causing the House to take a second vote where the bill again failed.

Following those votes, the Legislature left town with plans to return in ten days.

It would be overly simplistic to dismiss the two-day special session as a waste. As previously pointed out here, it was important for the lawmakers to get votes on the record. We know for certain now the proposal pushed by Governor Justice and the Senate is not acceptable to a united Republican majority in the House.

I’ll come down on the side of optimism and say that’s progress… sort of. Now it is necessary for the negotiators to seriously contemplate what they are willing to change in their positions. George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Of course, change is not easy, especially if one’s position is based on a deeply held principle, and we have those among the legislators and the Governor.

Justice is convinced state government cannot make deeper cuts into services and that additional revenue, including a taxpayer-financed road plan, is essential to the state’s recovery. Senate Republicans will abide by higher consumption and business taxes if income taxes are lowered to stimulate growth. House Republicans say they have a responsibility to their constituents to hold the line on spending and higher taxes.

The two day session and the votes have firmly established those positions, so today it is difficult to imagine where change can come from, but change they must. The only alternative is a government shutdown on July 1 which would be a disaster.

Given what has happened so far, it’s time to move away from an approach where an agreement can be reached where all sides are pleased. It does not appear that common ground exists. The fallback position is a budget where none of the principles are satisfied.

Then we will know that they have truly reached a compromise.

Justice Applauds Senates Approval of Bipartisan Deal

WV Senate votes 32-1 to pass tax reform deal

The Free Press WV

Following the 32 to 1 vote in the state Senate to pass the bipartisan tax reform bill, Governor Justice issued the following statement:

“The bipartisan plan that passed out of the Senate will put us on a pathway to prosperity. It means we don’t have to make cuts that would cripple our state and we can lower taxes for working West Virginians.

“I want to thank Senate President Carmichael and Minority Leader Prezioso for their work to get this done. It’s proof that both sides can work together to do what’s best for the people of West Virginia.

“Today’s Senate vote brings us one step closer to fixing the budget crisis, creating 48,000 new jobs, giving our teachers a pay raise, while cutting taxes for our West Virginia people. This is a great deal for all West Virginians.”

Progress Report on $160M Settlement with Frontier

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Frontier Communications has increased internet speeds for approximately 36 percent of customers impacted by its estimated $160 million settlement with West Virginia.

Frontier Communications entered into the settlement to resolve complaints about internet speeds provided to its customers. The agreement, announced in December 2015, marked the largest, independently negotiated consumer protection settlement in West Virginia history.

“My office continues to closely monitor Frontier’s compliance with our settlement,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “This agreement improves connectivity for thousands in West Virginia. It’s also crucial to helping the state compete in this ever evolving world of digital technology.”

The multi-faceted agreement requires Frontier to invest at least $150 million in capital expenditures to increase internet speeds across West Virginia and lower monthly rates for affected consumers.

Frontier, to date, has spent $72.6 million in capital expenditures, funds which the company reports has increased internet speeds to 9,910 customers throughout West Virginia, according to the company’s most recent quarterly report filed with the Attorney General’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Office, between 2013 and 2015, received multiple complaints from customers paying for Frontier’s high-speed service, which advertised internet speeds up to 6 megabits per second.

Many consumers advised their Frontier service was slow or did not meet expectations. The subsequent investigation found many customers expecting internet speeds “up to 6 Mbps” frequently received speeds 1.5 Mbps or lower.

Frontier denied any allegation of wrongdoing and entered into the settlement to resolve disputed claims without the necessity of protracted and expensive litigation.

The settlement specifically required Frontier to invest $150 million, in addition to its $180 million in planned upgrades as part of the federal government’s Connect America Fund II program.

The discounted monthly rate set bills for approximately 27,500 affected customers at $9.99 – a reduction expected to cost Frontier $6.25 million per year, which will shrink with time as the discount remains in effect until mandated improvements allow Frontier to increase existing download speeds.

WV AUTHORIZES ONLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLING

The Free Press WV

West Virginia educational officials have eliminated the state RESA’s and the Office of Educational Performing Audits (OEPA) among other cutbacks, while expanding home schooling and authorizing county school boards to offer virtual school, where students in kindergarten through high school can learn online.

Under the law approved by the Legislature and Governor Jim Justice, a county board or a multi-county consortium can create a virtual instruction program and contract with online education providers starting July 01.

Elementary school students from kindergarten through fifth grade won’t be allowed until the program has operated for one full school year.

The law requires counting eligible students in the school district’s enrollment for determining state aid and subjecting them to the same state assessment requirements as other students to receive a diploma.

It allows them to participate in school sports and other extracurricular activities as well as “blended programs” with both classroom and online learning.

Initiative to Fight Identity Theft

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has embarked upon a new initiative in the fight against identity theft, in particular theft that involves the skimming of credit and debit cards.

The Attorney General, in a letter to gasoline stations and convenience stores across West Virginia, requested information on ways to raise skimming awareness and prevention among business owners, managers and consumers.

“Importantly, this letter is not a part of an investigation into your business,” Attorney General Morrisey wrote. “We are asking for your input. With your help, our office hopes to create guidelines and strategies for helping retail gas and convenience store owners prevent and reduce skimming.”

Skimmers – handheld devices and others attached to gasoline pumps and automated teller machines – allow identity thieves to steal credit/debit card information from the card’s magnetic strip.

The devices store the stolen data until it is transferred onto a counterfeit card. Thieves then use the counterfeit replica to charge an untold number of purchases onto the cardholder’s account without authorization.

In some instances, thieves also use unauthorized cameras to record the consumer’s personal identification number.

Skimmers are increasingly difficult to detect due to advancements in technology, however consumers should watch for anything attached to a gas pump or ATM card slot. Susceptibility also can occur at restaurants, retail establishments and anywhere consumers lose sight of their card in making a purchase.

The Attorney General urges consumers to always use their chip card as opposed to swiping the magnetic strip. Also, they should cover the screen when typing PIN numbers, never share or write down such passcodes and refrain from choosing easy or obvious passwords, such as birthdays, a mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of a Social Security number.

A few things that can help those who fall prey to skimming include:

  • Place a fraud report with credit reporting agencies.
  • Contact your financial institution.
  • Order credit reports.
  • File a police report.

The Attorney General’s letter can be read at http://bit.ly/2pnFUnn.

For more information on skimming and identity theft, see a full brochure at http://bit.ly/2aaCejm.

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of identity theft should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1.800.368.8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304.267.0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

Energy Severance Tax Rates Provide Another Hurdle In State Budget Battle

The Free Press WV

One of the many challenges in reaching agreement on a proposed state budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 has to do with coal and gas severance taxes.  The current rate is five percent, but at issue during informal budget discussions are proposed sliding severance tax rates, depending on the market price for the resource.

The West Virginia Coal Association has sent a letter to each member of the Legislature in support of the variable rate schedule for steam coal. Those rates range from 2.5 percent when steam coal is selling for less than $42 a ton, up to 10 percent when the price reaches $74 and higher.

Northern Appalachian steam coal market price has been fluctuating from $40-$46 a ton for the last year, meaning under the scale proposed by the Justice administration the severance tax would vary from 2.5 percent to 3.25 percent, well below the current rate.

(At least those are the most recent figures available, but those numbers can and do change rapidly as budget discussions continue.)

While the Coal Association is on board with the severance rates for steam coal, its members are adamantly against a similar sliding scale for metallurgical coal that’s used in making steel.  West Virginia produces from 40 to 50 million tons of coking coal a year and business is very good, at least for the moment.

Several weeks ago, a major cyclone damaged Australia’s key rail lines, interrupting shipments from Queensland which supplies more than half of the world’s coking coal. That caused prices to surge to between $180 and $260 a ton depending on the grade, sending met coal producers here scrambling to meet the demand and take advantage of the higher prices.

Under the Justice administration’s proposed sliding scale severance tax rates, met coal producers would see their tax rate double to ten percent beginning July 1, hitting them with a big expense just as they are getting back on their feet. Additionally, Australia will soon have those repairs completed, putting its coal back in the global market and bringing the price back down.

Meanwhile, the state’s natural gas industry is also worried about the possibility of higher severance taxes. One trade group, the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, did sign off on a Senate-passed bill that included the variable rates, but only because it included co-tenancy and joint development, two provisions that would make it easier for gas companies to conduct horizontal drilling. That bill failed in the House.

Governor Justice’s concept from the beginning has been for the state to give the natural resources industries a break when prices are low, but require them to pay more when times are good. That may sound like a reasonable concept, but it’s a tough sell with the state’s energy sector which has been battered by low prices and regulatory constraints.

Also, commodity prices are notoriously volatile. The sliding scale severance tax rates would make it even more difficult for companies to anticipate their production costs.  As the Coal Association said in its letter to lawmakers, “Certainty is key for sustaining our operations.”

Right now, there is no certainty because there is not yet a budget for next fiscal year, and it remains unclear whether severance tax rates will change significantly just two months from now.

100 Days Of The Justice Administration

On Inauguration Day, Governor Justice shared his vision for transforming West Virginia, and after 100 days, the Governor and his team have taken steps to bring greatness to our state.

The Governor’s primary focus continues to be passing a budget that will put West Virginia on a pathway to prosperity. Governor Justice took office and inherited a $500 million budget deficit. He put forward a plan to create 48,000 jobs and fill the budget hole with as little pain as possible. Public polling shows that a super majority — 74% — of West Virginians support the Governor’s Save Our State (S.O.S) Plan.

It’s a choice between the Governor’s plan for prosperity and NO plan from the other side.

When Republicans in the Legislature sent up a budget that had no plan to create jobs, cut public education, cut our state’s most vulnerable citizens, cut public safety, and took $90 million from the Rainy Day fund… Governor Justice vetoed it.


The Governor is committed to passing a responsible budget that won’t cripple West Virginia, and will bring new jobs to the Mountain State.​

Since his inauguration, the Governor has stayed focused on creating and saving West Virginia jobs. In his inauguration speech, Governor Justice outlined his plans to improve our schools, explode tourism, fix our roads, support our veterans, root out waste in government, and combat the drug epidemic. In the first 100 days, Governor Justice has made significant progress in all of those areas, but the work is only beginning. 

Here are just some of highlights of the first 100 days of the Justice Administration.


Job Creation

  • Saved 1,700 jobs connected to greyhound racing.

  • Protected 1,500 jobs at Ohio Valley Medical Center.

  • 28 small businesses were created in WV in the first 100 days.

  • Bidell Gas Compression brought 131 jobs to the Northern Panhandle.

  • WVDEP issued the 401 Certification for EQT’s Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile natural gas pipeline that runs through West Virginia to Virginia and will create 4,500 jobs.

  • H.T. Hackney Company brought 70 warehouse jobs to Milton.

  • Recalled 12 state foresters who were laid off last year.

  • Proposed the establishment of the Save Our State Fund, money to market our state and invest in infrastructure to lure companies to West Virginia and spur economic development. This proposal was blocked in the Legislature, but the Governor is trying to insert it into the final budget.


Public Schools

  • Ended the A to F grading system of public schools.

  • Appointed reformers to the State Board of Education that will listen to educators.

  • Eliminated unnecessary bureaucracy by getting rid of RESAs and OEPA, saving taxpayers $5 million.

  • Signed legislation to provide more school calendar flexibility for local school districts.

  • The Governor’s plan to give classroom teachers a 2% pay raise was killed by the legislature. He is not giving up on giving teachers a raise.


Broadband

  • Signed legislation to expand broadband access in West Virginia.


Roads

  • Road bond resolution passed and now the voters can give it approval.

  • Passed legislation to increase financing (GARVEE Bonds) for immediate road construction in the amount of $500 million.

  • Signed bills to extend Design Build and Public Private Partnership (P3) procurement methods to modernize and increase efficiencies in the processes by which roads are designed and constructed.


Fighting The Drug Epidemic

  • Championed legislation to stiffen penalties on out-of-state drug dealers.

  • Signed the Second Chance Employment Act to give people on the right path a shot at reentering the workforce.

  • Created the Office of Drug Control Policy.

  • DHHR distributed 6,359 Naloxone Rescue kits statewide to non-EMS first responders.  

  • The Governor proposed a 5% successful bidders fee on all road projects to fund the creation of drug treatment centers, this idea was opposed by the Legislature. Governor Justice has made it clear that this is critical to beating back the drug epidemic.

  • Signed legislation to assist in building drug treatment beds throughout the state with money from past and future pill-mill settlements.


Medical Cannabis

  • Signed bipartisan medical cannabis legislation into law. It allows seriously ill West Virginians to use and access medical cannabis for treatment.


Higher Education 

  • Passed legislation to give greater freedom and flexibility to West Virginia University, Marshall University, the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, and other four-year colleges and universities.

  • The Governor vetoed the Republican budget which made major cuts to WVU, Marshall and all other colleges and universities and community and technical colleges.

  • Saved the Osteopathic School from privatization ensuring that they will continue to produce quality doctors for rural West Virginia.


Tourism 

  • Signed legislation to restructure and streamline the state Division of Tourism.

  • Passed legislation to give the Division of Tourism more flexibility to promote West Virginia and facilitate economic development in the industry.

  • Passed legislation that replaces outdated MAPP program with modern cooperative advertising program that allows for increased cooperation among the state’s tourism regions and industry partners.

  • Economic Development Authority approved $25 million bond for the Cacapon Resort State Park lodge expansion project.

  • Signed the Amtrak tourism promotion bill. The first step toward bringing 7-day service to WV.

  • Sunday Hunting on private property is now the law of the land. The estimated economic impact for the state for hunting seven days a week is over $9 million.

  • The introduction of announced Saturday trout stockings at our state parks to encourage fishing and outdoor recreation.

  • The Governor’s plan to increase funding for tourism advertising was cut by Republican lawmakers.


Rooting Out Government Waste

  • Eliminated 334 state vehicles.

  • Swept agency accounts across state Government and found $60 million to help to close the FY 2017 budget shortfall.  

  • Started freeing up precious public safety funding by consolidating common operations, streamlining functions and ultimately by combining central office headquarters for agencies within the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

  • Launched an anti-waste initiative that has already developed more than a dozen proposed reforms to the way state government solicits, awards and ensures compliance with state contracts.

  • Proposed legislation to place a five-day pay cap on lawmakers for a special session. It was rejected by the Republican leadership.


Public Safety

  • Put in place measures that keep illicit substances out of our prisons and jails.

  • Vetoed Republican budget that would’ve cut $1 Million from State Police and cut $7.6 Million from Corrections.

  • The Justice Administration is implementing enhanced mental health and crisis intervention training to reduce violence in WV prisons and jails.


Veterans

  • Improved the grounds of the Don C. Kinnard veterans cemetery.

  • Expanded the Department of Veterans Assistance’s suicide-prevention program, Mountain State 22, into five West Virginia communities.

  • Governor Justice pushed for legislation to exempt 100% of military retirement from the state income tax. It was rejected by the Republicans.


Combating Poverty

  • Signed legislation to create a pilot project operated by West Side Revive Comprehensive Community Development Initiative. The program is aimed at helping people in the West Side of Charleston rebuild their community and spur economic development.​

Justice Signs Higher Education Reform Bill

HB 2815 gives more flexibility to schools under the HEPC

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice visited West Virginia University to sign House Bill 2815, legislation that will give greater freedom and flexibility to West Virginia University, including West Virginia University Potomac State College and West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Marshall University, and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.
 
The reform legislation will give more autonomy to these institutions and realign the role of the Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC). Justice was joined by WVU President Gordon Gee, Marshall University President Jerry Gilbert, and WVSOM President Dr. Michael Adelman for the bill signing. Gee, Gilbert, and Adelman voiced their strong support for the legislation. 

 “Our bigger schools need the freedom to continue to innovate and grow,” said Governor Jim Justice. “As the campuses evolve it’s clear that more decisions should be made by the boards of governors at WVU, Marshall, and the School of Osteopathic Medicine. This bill allows greater flexibility and allows HEPC to focus its efforts.”

 
The bill preserves the HEPC to serve its core function as a coordinating body and to oversee and undertake regional and statewide higher education policy initiatives for the public good. 

 
Gordon Gee, President of West Virginia University:

“We are very appreciative to the governor and the legislators for their leadership on this issue. This new governance structure will help us be nimble and innovative enough to overcome our state’s challenges, and we look forward to working together as we continue to do great things.”


Jerome A. Gilbert, President of Marshall University:  

“I applaud the governor for signing this bill. This is good legislation that will give Marshall University more opportunities to reward exemplary employee performance and productivity. It also will allow us to do strategic financial planning, and will let us spend more time on programs and services for our students and less on bureaucratic reporting requirements.

“We appreciate the legislature and Governor Justice’s support of this bill to support excellence in higher education in West Virginia.”


Michael Adelman, D.O., D.P.M., J.D., President of
WV School of Osteopathic Medicine

“I truly appreciate the work of the Governor and the legislature during this past legislative session to provide the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, West Virginia University and Marshall University with more autonomy as state institutions during the state’s difficult budget times. We are grateful for the leadership Governor Justice has taken with House Bill 2815 and the efficiency and flexibility this legislation gives to WVSOM as we continue to fulfill our mission by training well-educated osteopathic physicians to meet the health care needs of West Virginia.”

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