CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice cited strong revenue numbers and a biblical passage as evidence supporting his preference to live almost two hours from the state Capitol.
He said he is out around the state, working for improvement.
“But I am out as a laborer. And it’s working. It’s working like it’s never worked before ever,” Justice said at a press conference at the Capitol.
“If you think I’m going to apologize to you or even comment on, ‘Well, governor why aren’t you at the mansion more?’ I’m everywhere more. Everywhere.”
In recent weeks, Justice has faced criticism and legal challenges about the finances of his companies. The governor also faces a lawsuit contending he flouts the state Constitution’s requirement to live at the seat of government.
All that has blended into rising criticism from the Senate’s Republican majority, members of the governor’s own party, that he needs to improve his habits.
Those issues were on the governor’s mind as he touted continued good news about state revenue.
Justice and his top revenue officials showed displays with numbers comparing the decade prior to Justice taking office to those during his term.
The first board showed a .8 average revenue growth rate from 2007 to 2017.
The second board showed an 11.5 percent growth rate from 2017 to 2019.
The growth was on the strength of severance taxes, corporate net income taxes, personal income taxes and sales taxes.
Justice pointed to the first board to describe the economic performance of previous administrations.
“From the media standpoint, from the Legislature standpoint. For maybe people who are out in the wilderness and they just don’t know any better and they only know what they hear, why do you want Jim Justice to be them? Why do you want me to be them?” he asked.
“And let me explain what I mean. You want me to sit over there at the mansion and get gold stars for just sitting there? You want me to do what’s been done in the past?”
Justice also cracked open a Bible during the press conference, citing Matthew 9:35-38.
“To me, this is the whole telltale,” Justice said.
It’s a scene where Jesus and disciples are out among people, especially the ill. Jesus comments that the people are like sheep without a shepherd.
He tells his disciples that the work is out among the people: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
Justice elaborated: “Now think what he’s saying. ‘The harvest is out in the field. What are you all doing right here? The harvest is in the field.’ I’m in the field. I’m in the field every day.
Then pointing to the board with the revenue growth, he said, “That’s what I do. That’s my result.”
Pointing to the other board, he said, “That’s their result.”
Justice has been under fire for the past several days by Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, who has called for his resignation.
Blair released another statement critical of Justice on Wednesday.
“No matter how many times Governor Justice implies that the voters should be thankful for him or that they ‘need’ him more than he needs them, it is just another glaring example of the failed policies and politics of the past that have left many areas of our state in ruin. It must stop,” Blair stated.
“Governor Justice didn’t lead on issues of job creation and economic development. In fact, Governor Justice proposed one of the biggest tax increases in history on average citizens while failing to pay many of his own tax debts. That’s not conservative.”
Democrats made a similar call for Justice to improve his work habits almost exactly a year ago.
Speaking today on “Radio Roundtable” on WJLS, Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, said the friction is spilling out into the open.
“There’s been a lot of talk of this privately for a long long time, but what’s happened now people have finally said well, we’ll have this fight publicly,” Bates said.
“This didn’t happen overnight. Over 12 months ago people on our side told the governor he needs to turn up and do his job. Now you’re hearing the senior people in the Republican party, his own party, say he needs to do the same thing and they’re not prepared to endorse his re-election campaign. So it’s getting pretty ugly.”
Justice said the focus should be on results.
“When you come up with things like where’d you sleep last night. I mean, really, really. This is my job. That’s my job. The numbers speak for themselves. You know my job. That’s my job. We want to just keep moving. So, I wish to goodness we could just know this,” he said.
“I couldn’t be any more prouder as West Virginians, but I couldn’t be any more prouder to represent the Republican Party and say we need to be together and move forward. I’ve said it until I’m blue green. It doesn’t really matter if we’re Democrats or Republicans. A the end of the day, we’ve got too many people on the outside throwing rocks at us.”