CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Mitch Carmichael, who has been one of Gov. Jim Justice’s strongest allies in the Legislature, now says he’s fed up after a press release from the governor taking aim at a Senate project to upgrade restrooms.
“It’s ridiculous. The man’s lost his mind,” Carmichael, R-Jackson said this morning on MetroNews’ “Talkline” in response to the governor’s news release.
Justice’s statement came out about 10 a.m. and was labeled “Justice calls bullsnot on politicians for spending money on private Capitol bathrooms.”
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) July 12, 2017
“Based on how poorly the Legislature did this past year, the taxpayers shouldn’t pay them for a new outhouse— much less a new luxury bathroom,” Justice stated. “We’ve got schools with bathrooms that don’t work and these politicians want the taxpayers to pay for gold-plated toilets? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Justice continued, “I’m new to the political process, but is this what they mean by ‘live within your means’? If the facilities are so bad for our lawmakers, I’m happy to get them an outhouse delivered to the Capitol grounds.”
Carmichael said the project is meant to upgrade multiple, public Capitol bathrooms to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The total anticipated cost is $860,000. Senate leaders said the restrooms are public, rather than private as the governor described.
The work was originally approved in 2009 by then-Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, according to a Senate news release distributed today. The money for the renovations has been set aside since that time. The plans for the upgrades have been vetted and approved by the Capitol Building Commission to ensure the changes reflect the integrity of the original architecture of the building.
Carmichael said the restrooms have never been updated and that he personally has had to help disabled people use those facilities. “You can’t ignore your state Capitol and allow it to crumble,” Carmichael said.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 12, 2017
Carmichael objected to the substance of the governor’s statement, as well as the tone, alluding to Justice’s use of a tray of actual bovine feces to illustrate his vetoing of the budget the Legislature passed at the end of the regular session.
“Here’s a governor who had the indignity and the disrespect to bring cow feces into the state Capitol and unveil it, and now he’s going to criticize the state Senate for upgrading the restroom facilities that are now almost 85 years old,” Carmichael said. “These public restroom facilities are non-ADA compliant.
“He talks about gold-plated this and that. This is ridiculous. this press release needs to be flushed down the toilet.”
Carmichael added, “I don’t understand this guy’s fixation with restrooms and everything related to, I don’t know.”
Carmichael has been one of Justice’s political allies in the Legislature. Although the governor is a Democrat and the Senate president is a Republican, Carmichael has been generally supportive of the governor’s goals, such as his road-funding bills. The two collaborated on a revenue proposal that would have raised sales taxes but then decreased personal income taxes a few months later.
Carmichael tended to laugh it off when the governor called legislators names such as “blockheads.”
Now Carmichael says that’s over. He said he withheld criticism over the outstanding taxes owed by the coal companies owned by Justice’s families. No more, Carmichael said on “Talkline.”
“I’m going to now,” he said. When you’re talking about making the people’s house ADA compliant and this guy shows cow feces and owes the state $4.5 million, I mean, come on.”
Referring to Justice’s comment that the money being used to upgrade the restrooms could instead be used to pay for drug treatment, Carmichael added: “Pay your taxes — $4.5 million in taxes for drug treatment.”
Justice’s news release had suggested the Senate should use the allocated bathroom money to fund drug treatment centers.
Carmichael and other llawmakers noted that during the regular session, the Legislature passed a bill that transferred $22 million to create new substance abuse treatment beds and facilities across the state. House Bill 2428, creating the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund, can use state appropriations, federal grants, and private funds to support new treatment and recovery centers.
The governor’s statement received criticism on social media from other legislators, too.
Will someone tell me where these luxury bathrooms are? I’ve never seen a “private bathroom” in the Senate and certainly none that are luxury
— Ryan Ferns (@RyanFernsWV) July 12, 2017
Others questioned the expense of the project.
So Republican leadership requested 800k in bathroom upgrades at Capitol. Ya know fiscal responsibility and stuff. #wvpol
— Shawn Fluharty (@WVUFLU) July 12, 2017
And others questioned whether the fact that state leaders are squabbling over bathrooms is a sign of greater problems.
“Dysfunctional” defined as not performing normally, as an organ or structure of the body; malfunctioning, e.g., WV State Government. #wvpol
— Isaac Sponaugle (@isaacsponaugle) July 12, 2017