CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice’s descriptions of the budget framework Republican leaders submitted in the state Senate and House of Delegates? Insulting, old, insensitive, disastrous and cowardly.
“It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. It’s frustrating and it’s really disappointing,” Justice said during a Tuesday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
He said he’d been looking for new ideas for addressing the projected $500 million shortfall in next year’s state budget.
“If you take just what they’re doing right now, it is almost an instant replay of what we’ve done the last three years. Now, there’s no excuse for that,” Justice told Hoppy Kercheval.
Justice used the following anecdote involving a hypothetical family to explain his view of the proposed Republican budget framework:
“We talk about spending what we have as if it’s a novel concept, and it’s not,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson, 04).
In the mix is $150 million in potential, unspecified cuts for higher education, K-12 public education and the Department of Health and Human Resources. The three areas that account for about three-quarters of West Virginia’s general revenue budget have largely been exempt from past cuts.
Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso (D-Marion, 13), a former Senate Finance chair, said he doesn’t know where Republicans expect to find the money.
“To take money out of higher ed, that’s going to be a disaster. Public ed is already hurting and I don’t know where you take it out of DHHR with all the ties to the federal money that we have,” he said. “We’ve been down this road on several occasions during the past three years.”
Justice has been hitting the road to rally support for his both his budget and road proposals.
On Wednesday, he’s scheduled to take his Save Our State Tour, “S.O.S.,” to Cabell County for a 12 p.m. stop at Marshall University’s Applied Engineering Complex with Tom Smith, secretary of Department of Transportation, and Marshall President Jerome Gilbert.
Additional engineers, Justice said, would be needed if his proposed $2.8 billion Roads Plan is approved.
Thursday, the S.O.S. Tour will move to Jefferson County’s Citizens Fire Company near Charles Town.
On Tuesday night, Justice was due at Wheeling Jesuit University for a town hall meeting, following a Monday night town hall on WVVA Television.
Justice told the following story on “Talkline” about, what he sees, as the need for innovative ideas to set West Virginia up for the future:
Prezioso said Justice has the right ideas when it comes to the budget in terms of attempting to jump-starting the economy.
“We’ve got a crisis,” Prezioso said. “We should be talking about roads. We should be talking about infrastructure. We should be talking about tourism. How do we grow the economy?”
The 2017 legislative session continues through April 8.