CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has additional financial firepower heading into his third State of the State Address Wednesday night. He announced Tuesday state revenue collections are at a record level.

Jim Justice

Through the first six months of the fiscal year, the state has collected more than $2.23 billion in taxes, $185 million above estimates. Justice said both overall collections and the half-year surplus are all-time highs.

“The biggest in history and the largest in history–revenue generated in the first six months of the (budget) year,” he said.

Revenue collections in December were more than $44 million above estimates marking the ninth consecutive month the state has collected more than it predicted.

Justice delivered the news less than 36 hours before he’s scheduled to give his annual speech to begin the 60-day legislative session. He declined to offer speech specifics Tuesday but indicated the revenue surplus would play a large role in what he’ll talk about.

“We ought to really, really be happy because there’s lots and lots of good things we’re going to be able to do,” he said.

Justice said he’ll follow through on an earlier pledge to support a five percent pay raise for teachers and other state workers along with more money for the state Public Employees Insurance Agency. There are likely other proposals for the funds but Justice decided to leave that information until the Wednesday night speech.

What’s happened in the last year with the revenue has been nothing short of amazing, according to Justice.

“Just think about it, when we’re talking about the biggest in history surplus for the first six months considering where we were a couple of years ago, it’s really good. Really, really, really, good,” the governor, who announced his reelection bid Monday, said.

State Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy told reporters Tuesday the surplus in revenues in the last nine months has totaled $234.4 million. He said at the six-month mark, severance taxes collections are 51.1 percent more than December 2017, Corporate Net Income Tax collections, 44.2 percent, Consumer Sales Tax ,13.3 percent and Personal Income Tax, 9.1 percent ahead of last budget year.

Justice said the $185 million surplus doesn’t count the $58 million by which he adjusted revenue estimates last spring when lawmakers were working to pass a new state budget. He said he believes the surplus has already topped $200 million and he predicts it will continue to climb.

“If you believe that the world is going to stay halfway stable and you believe that West Virginia has coals that are so important to steel manufacturing in the world, as well as you believe there’s a possibility of (President) Trump coming up with an infrastructure program that will have a significantly even bigger demand for steel, then really and truly you’re going to have to say that West Virginia is a player,” Justice said.

The state’s exports, mainly because of the demand for coal on foreign marks, are up more than 41 percent this budget year.

MetroNews will broadcast Wednesday night’s State of the State Address beginning at 7 p.m. on radio stations across the state and at wvmetronews.com.

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