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Justice vetoes budget by unveiling bull manure

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice showed state lawmakers what he thought of their $4.1 billion budget, vetoing it with a pile of bull manure Thursday.

Appearing before a crowd in the state capitol’s lower rotunda, Justice made his theatrical and smelly rebuke during a live-streamed news conference.

“We don’t have a nothing burger today, and we don’t have a mayonnaise sandwich,” Justice said in reference to his previous analogies for Republican budgets. “What we have is nothing more than bunch of political bull you-know-what.”

With that, Justice lifted the silver lid on a tray to reveal animal feces.

“For that very reason, I’m signing my name on the budget veto,” he said, “and I hope and pray that the silliness will stop and we’ll do the right thing.”

The governor’s veto means lawmakers will be called back into special session in order to adopt a spending plan before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year. No date has been set for that session.

Justice presented his own budget plan to lawmakers in early February. He changed it a few times during the past 60-plus days but it basically included an increase in the consumer sales tax, a B&O tax on businesses and a rich man’s tax.

The legislature’s budget doesn’t include any of those revenue enhancements neither does the spending plan include Justice’s multi-million dollar proposal to fix the state’s highways. That plan would have raised DMV fees and Turnpike tolls.

The budget passed by the House and Senate cuts $110 million in spending, most of that from higher education and the state Division of Health and Human Resources. It also takes $90 million from the Rainy Day Fund. That move would take the state below a fund balance encouraged by Wall Street bond rating agencies.

Using whiteboards to lay out the cuts contained in the legislature’s budget, Justice ripped into lawmakers.

“The Republicans passed this budget and called and called and called and said, ‘surely you are going to veto this because we don’t want to own it. We want you to veto it’,” Justice said. “It’s just a game and it doesn’t mean anything.”

Justice said he’s pushing back against what he said are immature antics at the capitol.

“We don’t have to be a bunch of babies, we don’t have to be a bunch of children, we don’t have to be one-upping the other party all the time,” Justice said. “If we’re this way, you know what we’ll get done? Nothing.”

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said Justice did the right thing.

“It hurts public education. It hurts our seniors. It hurts veterans. Plus, when you take $90 million out of the Rainy Day Fund it hurts our bond rating,” Lee said.

WVU President Gordon Gee, also on hand at the capitol Thursday, said Justice has a commonsense vision for the state.

“He has a vision. He has a plan. Unless someone comes up with a better vision or a better plan let’s follow his lead,” Gee said.

WV-AARP State Director Gaylene Miller said Justice’s decision to use the manure prop wasn’t offensive.

“That’s just how the governor is. That’s what we’ve come to expect. He’s a homespun kind of guy and I think his honesty is refreshing,” Miller said.

West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts said after the dust settles from Thursday’s veto he’s hopeful all sides can get together.

“My guess is the governor has a plan to try and let things cool down a little bit which probably isn’t a bad idea and then come back and say ‘where do we go from here,'” Roberts said.

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