CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said he’ll call a special session right away after passage of the $1.6 billion road bond and described the outcome as putting West Virginia on the path to winning.
Justice began Monday with a press conference at the Capitol to provide further reaction to Saturday night’s passage of the bond.
Unofficial results from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office showed about a 3-1 margin in favor of the bond issue.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the Secretary of State’s office showed 87,751 in favor of the bond and 37,759 against it.
West Virginia has 1,222,562 registered voters.
So the 120,510 who voted represented about 11 percent. There are still provisional ballots to be counted.
Fifty-four of the state’s 55 counties voted in favor of the bond issue.
“I can’t say this without an incredible amount of emotion. What an incredible night for West Virginia,” Justice said this morning, referring to the election results becoming official on Saturday night.
“What’s going to happen now? It’s goodness that’s going to happen now.”
The governor began today’s press conference by saying his newspaper headline would reflect a historic victory for the state.
“Saturday night, maybe for the first time in its existence, tasted winning. And it tastes good,” he said.
“We’ve been conditioned to taste losing, but this is an opportunity for jobs, an opportunity to bring people to our state.”
Justice said he’ll issue a call for a special session this week, probably on Thursday. Legislators would be at the Capitol anyway for regularly scheduled interim meetings.
“We have not completely refined all the detail,” Justice said.
One topic of the special session, the governor hinted, might address the hiring process for state workers who may be necessary as West Virginia ramps up for increased road work.
Transportation Secretary Tom Smith said the highways department already has 500 positions that have been open and needs to fill a variety of positions in areas such as human resources, auditing and engineering. “We’ve been chronically understaffed for years,” Smith said.
Another topic of the special session is likely to be a state income tax exemption for veterans. Justice has talked about this for months, and there appears to be solid legislative support. “We owe ’em, we owe ’em,” Justice said today.
On the bond vote, Justice described it as like a football game that had resulted in a 54-1 win. He said a score like that was like he allowed a safety in sympathy to the opposition.
Only Ritchie County voted against the issue, 419 against and 364 for. Justice said he doesn’t hold that vote against the county but wants to find out what happened.
“Now I don’t really know what’s going on in Richie, but I’m going to go there and find out,” Justice said. “There are good people in Ritchie County, and we want to help ’em.”
Justice also acknowledged the broader groups of citizens who were critical of the bond issue. Some, he said, may never be persuaded. Others, he said, he hopes to assure.
“For the naysayers, you’ll probably never change some just on a mission to spew out bad stuff all the time. We want to love those people,” the governor said.
Justice also reflected back on his State of the State address, when he first came out in support of a large-scale highways effort.
“I proposed something that just took us 8 or 9 months for the people to realize ‘Dag, that’s a pretty good idea,'” Justice said.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) October 9, 2017