Jim Justice is probably the first Governor to bring an axe and a tackle box to his inauguration. They were props for his story about meeting an old woman along the road in the Wyoming County community of Jesse, who was selling anything she could to try to get by.
Justice said he gave the woman $200 for both items and put them in his vehicle. “I carry the tackle box and the ax every day,” he said. “I can’t stand how good we are and how troubled we are and how many people are hurting.”
There is no question that the new Governor feels deeply about our state and it’s people. His drive to succeed is evident. That’s about half the battle; the person with the will has a chance of finding a way.
But what are those ways? The new Governor, who has dwelled much more on broad themes than specifics, did drop a few tantalizing nuggets in his 21-minute long speech.
—“We’ve got to raise revenue,” Justice said, but he did not say how. Does that open the door to new taxes? Earlier, Chief of Staff Nick Casey said on Talkline that the new administration realizes there is no sentiment in the Legislature for new taxes, but Justice did say in his speech that new money is necessary and he’s open to all ideas.
—Justice said he already has an education reform plan ready to submit and he hinted it will include significant cuts in the size of the education bureaucracy, which he says has grown ten-fold over the last four decades, while the number of students has dropped by half.
He also hinted that he’s not in favor of the new and controversial A-F grading system for our public schools, saying “We have to worry about our kids getting A through F instead of our schools getting A through F.”
—Justice floated the idea of linking the size of the severance tax to how the industries are doing. Under Justice’s tiered system, when the gas or coal industries are struggling, the severance tax would be lowered, but that tax would rise when business is good.
—The new Governor said highways would be a priority. He wants to raise $225 million “someway, somehow” to leverage as much as $1.4 billion, apparently through a bond issue, to build and maintain roads and create jobs.
Justice’s message always comes with a sense of urgency. “We can’t wait,” he said. “We don’t need to be a third world country. It’s time for us to claim our place.”
It’s a powerful message, one that says as West Virginians we deserve better than standing along side the road selling an old tackle box and an axe, but also if we want better, we’re going to have to work for it and make some hard decisions along the way.