CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “I don’t think Jim Justice has any appetite for posturing.”
Those words underscore the unique position that House Minority Leader Tim Miley (D – Harrison, 48) believes Governor-elect Jim Justice is in as he transitions into his new role.
“I really think he will use his bully pulpit in a manner that he thinks he needs to to get his agenda accomplished, which I know will be an agenda put together with input from both Democrats and Republicans seeking input from everybody so that we have a bi-partisan effort,” Miley said last week on MetroNews “Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval.”
Miley believes Justice does have “somewhat of a mandate” following his November election win over Republican Gubernatorial candidate and outgoing Senate President Bill Cole–particularly when taken with the state’s rightward shift everywhere else on the political landscape.
“From the conversations, the very frank conversations I’ve had, if Governor-elect Justice feels like the Legislature–either Democrat or Republican–are playing political games and are not willing to make the tough political decisions that they were elected to do, I think he will call them out,” Miley said.
The tough choices Miley refers to are almost exclusively tied to one major financial issue moving forward: budget deficits.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Miley said. “The necessity at the present time in West Virginia is to deal with this budget deficit, which may cause some people’s mindset to move along the lines of consolidating various services, agencies, [and] organizations.”
West Virginia is expected to have a budget deficit in the neighborhood of $400 million next fiscal year, and Miley predicts budget deficits could be the norm throughout all of Justice’s first term in office.
“Every time there is a cut in your backyard, every legislator who represents that area kicks and screams about it because they fear there is going to be backlash against them,” Miley said.
That’s the reality though, Miley said. And that reality will need to be tackled by a Republican Legislature working with Justice, the Democrat.
“These cuts, if you want to cut your way out of this, are going to be painful,” Miley said. “But I think Jim is willing to do it. The question will be whether the Legislature is willing to do it.”
During his campaign, Justice made the suggestion of a short-term loan to help get West Virginia’s financial house in order.
The Legislature will begin the 2017 session in February.