WVpac has included the entire text address and the complete video of Governor Jim Justice’s first State of the State address, delivered Wednesday, Feb. 8 in Charleston.
Governor Justice: Unless y’all are all wanting to be here all night, you got to quit this clapping so much. That’s all there is to it.
Thank you so, so much. Speaker Armstead, President Carmichael, members of the Board of Public Works, Justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Senate Minority Leader Prezioso.
How about that? And I got that the first time. Roman said I did pretty good with that.
House Minority Leader Miley, and all our great legislators. Tonight is a really important night,
You know, I want before we get into the meet and potatoes of what I have to say, I want to recognize a couple of people. These four people came with our great Speaker Armstead. These four people are principals that suffered through a 1,000-year flood. You know, I firsthand know what the flood was all about, and it was beyond belief, terrible.
I don’t know where they are, but if they can stand: Mike Kelly, the Principal of Herbert Hoover; Missy Lovejoy, the Principal of Elkview Middle; Cindy Cummings, the Principal of Bridge Elementary; and Vanessa Brown, the principal of Clendenin Elementary.
Your courage goes way, way, way beyond being unnoticed. You know, it took wisdom and strength and courage to some way, somehow, battle back. We got a long ways to go. But that’s what we do.
There’s another group here it’s called KVC Health Systems. And there is a CEO that’s a national CEO. His name is Jason Hooper. And let me tell you what they’re doing. They’re going to bring a college basically for foster kids to Montgomery. A place that really needs us, needs our jobs, needs hope. The great Gordon Gee of WVU has been terribly instrumental in this. Wherever you are, Jason and your team, please stand as well.
Now, stay with me. Isn’t this place reverent. Hallowed ground. Tonight I’m going to do the best in my ability to deliver a speech that I think is phenomenally important. There is no question there’s been speech after speech delivered here. I am telling you, I can’t possibly imagine that there is a time as dire and a time as important as tonight.
Now, let me tell you. There is no question we’ve been fiftieth forevermore. We’re better than that. Now, like it or not like it, we’re dying fiftieth. This is the most difficult and the biggest depression that we could ever possibly imagine. The biggest of the biggest.
Now, let me tell you this. On a little bit of light humor. But there is a fellow, his name is Ricky Mokel. He’s a comedian. He said as a child he was hyper, and his dad gave him a shovel. And he used to love to dig. And he would dig and dig and dig and dig and dig and dig to the point in time where he couldn’t get out of the hole. And then he said, “What’s the use? There’s no point in digging anymore, is there?”
Well, he says it to be funny. Because then he turned, and he said he and his dad had a password at that point in time. And when he would get to where there was no way he could get out of the that hole, he would go: Help! Help! And his dad would come and get him.
Well, trust me. We got to quit digging.
We are such in the hole that we got to quit digging. We got to quit working against one another. We’ve got to some way hold hands with each other and run across the finish line together. We’ve got to have new ideas, and I’ll get to those in just a few minutes.
The other thing is just this. You’ve honored me beyond belief. You elected me as your Governor, a person that had never been a politician, in the wake of me running as a Democrat, at a time when Donald Trump won our state by 17,000 million percent.
Now, there had to be a reason. And the reason is just this simple. And if I make some people mad, I just make them mad. But the people knew that it didn’t matter to me. It didn’t matter to me if you were a Democrat or Republican, an independent, all that mattered to me was one thing. And that was that you are West Virginians. And I’m a West Virginia. And I just want goodness for our state. I’ve said it over and over and over.
Now, there will be somebody that will be on some witch hunt to try to beat on me about something. But I want again to announce to the world in every way. I, nor my family, want anything from this other than goodness for you and our state.
Now, let me tell you. You’ve trusted me with your vote. I absolutely need you now to trust me with your voice. Now, you don’t see any teleprompters here. You know, a lot of news media said, you know, he’s folksy. I didn’t know that I knew how to spell that. But there are sure no teleprompters. But you see, my definition of that would be plain talk. And that’s what I think West Virginians want to hear.
Now, the truth is, it’s time for gigantic decisions. The past four years, no matter how hard we’ve tried, we’ve lived off Rainy Day. And we’ve lived off the low-hanging fruit that we could cut away. We have. We’ve cut probably $600 million of waste. And we’ve cut the Rainy Day Fund into half.
Now, this year, right now, you’re going to have to cut the Rainy Day Fund 123 million more dollars. No way around it. Right now. What are you going to have? 500 million. What are you going to do? What you going to do? You’re faced with a $500 million hole in the bucket. And the next year is a $700 million hole in the bucket. If you cut Rainy Day more, the rate holders, the people that create our rates for our bonds are going to torpedo us.
We’ve got issues. We’ve got real problems. So I want to tell you this. I don’t mean this n any bad way, because I’m the one that signed up to run for Governor. But we’ve got an 18 carat dog’s mess, don’t we? We do. I didn’t create the dog’s mess. I have inherited the dog’s mess. And I am telling you, you have to have real direction and real ideas and real cooperation together to be able to get out of this.
Now, there is two ways. Two ways you can get there. And you got to forgive me, I’m not nervous, but I just sweat a lot. A lot. And I got a bad knee, and man does it hurt.
But there’s two ways you can get out of it — or a combination of ways. The first way is to just cut more. Cut more. Well, let me tell you just this. Just think about this just for a second. Are you willing — are you willing to eliminate all of our state parks? Are you willing to eliminate all of your colleges and universities other than Marshall and WVU? Shut them down? Are you really willing to close our tracks, to not have dogs, and to not have horses? Are you really truly willing to gut your seniors? Are you willing to turn our backs on our vets?
I can’t get there. I can’t get you there.
Because you know why? Because at the end of what I’ve just said, you’re halfway home. What then are you going to do? What is West Virginia going to become? A nuclear waste site? Is it going to become the place where our nation sends all of its prisoners all of the time. Are we not better than that?
Now, let me give you just this scenario. Here’s an analogy. You got a factory. We’re the factory. You’ve got a factory. The factory has got $100 million in the bank. The factory is $200 million upset down. Think about it. How we going to fix it?
Here is what we can do. Take the hundred million away from the factory just like that. We got a hundred million dollars upside-down. Then I tell you what’s let’s do next. Let’s cut 25 percent of the people off. And then I tell you what else let’s do. Let’s cut the wages of everybody else there by 20 percent. And you’re still not there.
So I tell you what let’s do, let’s sell 75 percent of the equipment out of the factory. And then, we in here will go home and say, “We did it. We balanced the budget.” And you know what will happen? The sun will come up tomorrow, and we’ll say: Holy horse whatever, the factory is dead. The factory is gone. So, that’s where you are.
Now, I’m a business guy. And I know this stuff. Now, let me just do this. Let me just tell you this. I truly believe that any cuts that are out there that somebody can bring me that’s not going to just stifle us as a patient, I’m for. I am delivering to you $30 million worth of cuts. It won’t hardly move the needle. I am telling you our decisions are not tough decisions. They’re catastrophic decisions.
Now, I really want you to pay close attention, because I truly from the bottom of my heart hate tax increases. Hate them. I really do. But I want to show you the most painless way that I think you can get out of this mess.
Now I’m going to come around here and write. Here’s what you gotta do. You gotta cut all that we can possibly cut. I’ve got to have everybody in this state pay a half of a penny in additional sales tax. There is no way around it.
I’ve got to have you pay instead of $30 in DMV fees, I’ve got to have you pay 50.
The other thing is this, in trying to be fair, in trying to just be fair. The people are here. Here is your people. Here’s your people. Here’s your businesses. I’ve got to have our businesses — there’s lots of different ways to look at this — pay two two-tenths of one percent in a tax that would be equivalent to a B&O tax. It is a tax that Ohio charges 25 percent — or 25 hundredths. We would charge 20.
And the other last thing I will talk to you about is I’ve got to have ten cents a gallon on gasoline.
Now, I am telling you: If you don’t do this, you’re dead. You’re dead beyond belief.
Now, let me go back over here and come back — well, before I go, I’m going to stay with you a second. On these two right here, this one and this one, I want to sunset them. Three years. I think if you do what I am trying to propose to you to do, you can get rid of this, and you can get rid of this in three years.
Now, this deals with your roads. And this does too. Now, let me tell you this. I said a minute ago, I am adamantly against raising your taxes. We have got to find a way to not completely kill the patient.
Now, look what happens. Three years, this goes away. Three years, this goes away. I’ll tell you about this in just one second.
I want to tell you one last thing. My goal — Jim Justice’s goal as your Governor — is to do one thing, and that is to be the eighth state in this country with no income tax. None.
Now, that’s my goal. I hate like crazy to deliver to you what you have to do. That’s my goal.
Now, remember, I said what I said about a half a penny. What would you rather do? Would you rather have your school plummeted even more. Your seniors just forgotten. Your vets forgotten. Your parks closed. Fairmont State shut down. On and on and on. Or would you be willing as a people to say: I’m willing to pay a half penny more. And I’m willing as a business to step up and pay two-tenths of one percent. Because I love West Virginia. And we’re going somewhere.
ow, listen here. If you pay — if you pay ten cents more for gasoline, and a little bit more on your DMV fees, that’s going to turn into this. Here’s what it’s going to do. It will turn into $2.8 billion.
Now, just stay with me. I have four wonderful people back here. And I want you to understand wholeheartedly what your ten cents and almost nothing in DMV fees — that haven’t been raised in 40 years — Think about it. Almost nothing. I am asking you to do, to turn into that. And then let me show you what we can do.
Y’all bring this on down.
Now, with us tonight is Kevin Coll, Andy Estep, Brooke Rumbaugh, and Cody Webb. Brooke and Cody are students studying engineering at Marshall and WVU. And Andy and Kevin already work with us in Highways.
If you’ll do this. You see those jobs. You see ’em? We can let every single road job that is on the books for one to three, and three to five years, tomorrow. We can let them all tomorrow. Think what this would do. Just imagine what it will do. I’ll tell you what it will do. It will create 48,000 jobs in our state. 48,000 jobs. It will complete the network that we have got to do. It will make your tourism explode in this state. Honest to Pete. This is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Not me.
Now, there’s two other things I want to do. And I’m going to sit because I’m sweating too much.
I want to bid every one of these road jobs specifically labor intensive. And you know what I want to do from that? I want it to be our training ground. I want it to be our apprenticeship program. I want it to be something that will absolutely put our displaced miners that find a job here, or our young people that learn how to do something here. That’s an opportunity.
Now, let me tell you what else I want to do. For all the successful bidders, I want to charge them a 5 percent construction severance, whatever tax that may be, whatever you want to call it, to the successful bidder only. And my bet is, people, like me in business, will sharpen your pencils like crazy and it won’t cost us 5 percent. It may cost us one. And then you know what I want to do? I want to pool that money.
That money right there is $2.4 billion. If I could let every job tomorrow, it would amount to $120 million of a 5 percent pool that I would have.
nd then you know what I want to do with it? I want to fix the drug problem. If we don’t fix the drug problem in this state, it will cannibalize you. We have to have stiffer laws. There’s no question whatsoever, a drug pusher that rolls in here — You guys can roll — a drug pusher that rolls in here from Detroit and selling drugs, he ought to know that this is not going to be a fun program if we catch him. We absolutely have to have a pathway to get our people that are hooked on these terrible drugs back into the community of the workforce. We have to do something with all the prescription drugs. No question whatsoever about that. But we have to have treatment facilities too.
I would propose today if we do this, and those dollars flow, I would propose immediately building a facility in Charleston, one in the Eastern Panhandle, and I know the veterans are waiting on the dollars to come from the fireworks tax and everything to build their facility in Beckley. And I would like to skim off some of this money to help them be able to get that facility built.
Let me go to education. Guys, I’m a coach. I’m in the school all the time. We’ve proven how to be dead last. If you had gone around me and had these round table discussions and listened — just listened. You see, that’s what I did. And I just listened. You got a bunch of really, really sad unhappy campers. So I think we need gigantic education reform.
Here’s what I would do. I would submit a bill, and I will immediately, to eliminate any of the unnecessary bureaucracies that we have. We have got to return education back as much as we possibly can to a local level. I have put in my budget a 2 percent raise for all classroom teachers, and I am ashamed — I’m ashamed that we can’t do more.
Now, as far as testing, we are testing our kids t-totally to death. For what? I mean, here’s the bottom line. Think about it. If we were knocking it out of the park — you see, I’m all results-oriented. If we were knocking it out of the park, you could argue with me we’re doing the right thing. But for crying out loud, we’re dead last. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. We got to be doing something wrong. That’s all there is to it. As far as the testing goes, I am going to propose we throw Smarter Balance in the trash can and we go to ACT testing.
Let me show you this. Think about A through F for our schools. We do it on a bell curve. Think about this. Who in the world comes up with this stuff? These get an A. These get an F. All the big meat and potatoes get a C. And we call out to the world and say: Come to West Virginia. Our schools are mostly all C’s. I don’t get it. That’s got to go. A through F is gone.
Now, there is a beautiful lady here somewhere. Her name is Toni Poling. She’s our Teacher of the Year. If she would stand. She teaches at Fairmont Senior.
Now, also, wherever they are, the beautiful lady Leah Curry, who is the West Virginia President of Toyota; and the gentleman, Jim Fawcett of Highmark is here somewhere, that made all that possible as well. Thank you.
Let me tell you. I said throughout the campaign, I said, education can be a revenue producer for us, and everybody looks at me: How in the world? There’s no way. There’s no way. Everybody wants to go where your kids are going to be educated the best. Businesses want to go where your kids are going to be educated the best. We’ve got good teachers. We’ve got low crime. We’ve got good people. For crying out loud, we handcuff them every way coming and going. We got to stop that. And listen here.
Maybe it’s a twist of words on revenue producers, but if we could create an education mecca in West Virginia, honest to Pete, people would come and you couldn’t beat them away. It would be a revenue producer.
Now, I have to say: Jim Justice is no fan of consolidation.
Again, I’ll just tell you this. And I’ll ask you: Are we this bad? Are we this desperate. You know, tell you what we could do. We could close every school in the state to save us some money, except we could have one. And we could have just one somewhere close to Charleston. And we’ll bus every kid four hours, no more than four hours one way.
We’re not that bad. We just have to have ideas. And we’ve got to have hope. Now, I truly mean this. One of the flood ravaged towns that I truly believe is coming back, and I can see it just like I can see it tomorrow: I hope and pray that we end up with a school in Richwood.
Now, let me tell you this. Our veterans are phenomenally important. They’ve given everything to us, haven’t they? Everything. Do we really take care of them? I mean, for crying out loud, we can’t even maintain their cemetery. We’ve got to do better. We have to do better.
Now, I’ll be asking the Legislature to approve the increasing of our GARVEE capacity. And this one — before you go, “Oh, no,” I want you to listen. I’ll be asking the Legislature to raise our tolls on the turnpike a dollar.
Now, before you go crazy shooting at me, let me just say this. I want — I want, through your DMV fees, I want to charge everybody within our state eight bucks. Eight dollars. Then I want you to drive on the turnpike or whatever road that we would choose to toll for free. So I want you to pay eight bucks, and I want you to drive on our turnpike, wherever it may be, for free. Or whatever road we toll for free. You see, 77 percent of our money is coming from out of state. If we could raise it and make yours as West Virginians free, other than eight bucks — now you may live in the Eastern Panhandle and I would say to you: We need you to come and visit Princeton some point in time.
Now, if you come, for your eight bucks, we’re going to give you a 50 percent discount on the tolls. Because you’re going to pay nothing. And by the time you go through $3-$3-$3-$3-$3-$3 you’re going to feel like you got a real bargain.
And I’ll tell you just this. Did you see all those highways? Did you see all that? Well, I will promise you there will be something that will be in your neighborhood that will be tolled as well. As we go forward there’s going to have to be something in your neighborhood that will be tolled. And then the people from Princeton can come and visit you. And they can come for free too.
Now, I truly believe that we ought to tier our severance tax on coal and gas. You know, it’s just this simple. And our coal companies are really hurting. And I know a lot about this. When they’re really hurting, we got to step up and help them. And at that point in time, we probably have to step up and lower the severance tax. The same way with the gas.
But I am telling you, I am not a hog. I eat too much, but I’m not a hog. If we have the bonanza that I think is in front of us with coal — especially metallurgical coals — what if? What if I were to tell you, just this: Think about this for a second. If coal — if coal is $35, whoever is mining that is losing money. Lowering the severance tax on that to 2 percent, or whatever you want to do, okay, I’m good. There’s got to be a sweet spot to where we’re back to five.
What if it goes to $200 a ton? What happens? Two hundred dollars. I know this. There’s no way that your cost — anybody’s cost — is going to be greater than $80. At this level right here, anybody’s profit is $120 a ton.
Listen. I’m a grain of sand in the coal business that I’ve been in. A grain of sand. And if we mine 2 million tons and we make this kind of money, we make $240 million in a year. We don’t need to make that much money. At this point in time right here, this severance tax needs to be 10 percent. All it would do is lower the profitability to $110 a ton. All I’m saying is just this: Like it, or not like it, we have had our resources extracted from West Virginia over and over and over, and at the end of the rainbow, here we stand. We’re $500 million upside-down. We can’t have it keep going on. We can’t be a third-world country. You can’t do that.
Now, tourism. Tourism is so important to our state. We can knock it out of the park, back double triple. We probably need to reorganize the entire Tourism Department. There’s ways to do that. And the other thing you just got to simply put more money in it. We better find a way to market ourselves. I said it a million times. I said it in the inaugural speech. For crying out loud, every time you turn the TV on it says: Come to Michigan. Every time. I said in the inaugural address, I said: Who in the world wants to go to Michigan? I mean, really? You know, what if I called up tomorrow and said, I tell you what let’s do, let’s get a bus and let’s go to Detroit.
But do we market us? We don’t. We don’t. We got to do that.
Now, let me tell you — and I’ll be quick, because I know you’re tired of listening to me. Coal has been so vital to us. It’s been unbelievable. We should never forget who brung us to the dance. We should try with all our soul, with all in us, to try to help get our miners back to work.
There are other things. Natural gas just fell out of the sky on us, didn’t it? We need to do everything we can to exploit that to make it even better and better and better and better. You know, there’s issues within natural gas. I think it’s called joint development, or lease integration, that they really want. And I can’t possibly within me see: Why not? What’s wrong with that? Why not?
Now, we can help that industry. Listen to me on this. There are other things. I will be submitting with Senator Capito and Senator Manchin immediately — and I think that there’s a real shot — I will be submitting whatever the form of a bill may be to some way, somehow, try to drive furniture manufacturing, flooring manufacturing, cabinetry, back right in our lap to West Virginia. It can truly be done. We’ve got to do it through an environmental subsidy. That’s what has to be done. You see I’m the agronomy end of our agriculture stuff. I know about trees. I know about how they eat all the carbon. And I know how when we take a piece of wood like this to a dry kiln, the carbon is right here. And I know when the tree falls on the ground and eventually the carbon will be released back in the sky, especially if you have a fire. And I know we only cut one-third of our growth in West Virginia.
We are the perfect candidate for what President Trump wants to do in bringing manufacturing back to the United States, that today — today all of our furniture manufacturing is in Vietnam, China and Mexico. I love Vietnam, China and Mexico. From a distance. I want stuff for us.
Now, I got to say this about President Trump. Many of you would wonder, but I am really good friends with the Trump family. And I truly believe that Donald Trump will do all he possibly can as our president to help West Virginians. He will. He’s called me all kinds of times, and his son Eric has called all kinds of times, and now Don is probably going come and want to come and go turkey hunting with me.
Not Donald. Because Donald is not a turkey hunter. But let me tell you. He truly — he truly, really identified with our miners. And he understands the blight. And he’s a friend. If we give him a chance, he’ll really try to help us.
Now, as we’re winding down here, I would say there are certain things within government consolidation that we can do. There’s no question. I get it, I get it, I get it. We need to watch every penny to try to save every dollar, on and on and on. I mean, I’ve already started this. And for crying out loud, I drive my own vehicle. We eliminated all the vehicles in my little world. You know, we’re going to try to get rid of some of the state’s aircraft. We’re absolutely — Right now, we’ve identified 207 vehicles that we can basically get rid of. And what I want to do is line them up in front of the Capitol and have an auction and get rid of them.
We can’t forget agriculture. Agriculture — let me tell you. Furniture manufacturing. It can help us. It may be two years away. Agriculture can help us. It may be two years away. That’s why I said a little while ago, that 800-pound gorilla is setting right in your face right now.
When I bond that together, the gas tax and the DMV fees, I’ve got to go to a vote. A vote of the people. I’ve got to have 90 days after you approve it to go to a vote. I am begging the people to call you and drive you crazy to get to that vote. Because we have to do that. We’ve got to do that and do that right now.
Now, and I believe — and I will do this immediately, I will employ some person — gosh, I can’t imagine being called this, a Waste Czar. But I’ll have him absolutely dig into every agency known to man and try to find any excess monies that have been shoved away and hidden. And I’ll have him look. And I’ll have him try to find.
Now, let me just give you my philosophy of our regulatory agencies. My philosophy is just this. You know, I’ve had the great gift to be able to hire so many good people. Our cabinet choices and the people we’ve surrounded ourselves with, we didn’t care if they were republicans or democrats, independents. They’re real good. They’re really good. I told the people at the DMV, I told Austin Caperton — Austin said to me, he said: What do you really want to see happen? The list could be a mile long, couldn’t it. A lot of people would say to Jim Justice: Jim, write a job description of what you do.
Well, I could write and write and write, couldn’t I? But the bottom line is just this. The right person for the right job and they’re motivated. That’s what Jim Justice does. Right person, right job, and they’re motivated.
I told Austin Caperton, I said, Austin, we have people coming from everywhere with any kind of business request under the sun. A lot of times our inspectors show up, and they show up — and I hate to say this, because you’re going to probably think, boy, has he really lost it now, but they show up with a T-shirt on and a pair of old jeans. They maybe haven’t shaved forever. And they got a badge in their pocket.
Now, listen, I think they ought to look like something. And the other thing — and they will look like something, or we’ll have them tending to Grisly Adams.
But the other thing is just this. No matter what the request may be, I think that the first words out of their mouths should be: We’re going to try with all in us to do what you want to do.
Now, did you understand what I said? What I said is just this. So many times our regulatory agencies absolutely, no matter what on earth we try to do, they’re there to tell you no. They’re not there to tell us no.
Now, I underline — underline, underline, underline — nobody loves the outdoors as much as me. Nobody loves water as much as me. We’re not going to break the law. We’re got going to do anything to damage the environment to the very best of our abilities. Or our waters. But we are not going to just say no.
Now, let me end — and you’re saying thank God — let me end by just saying this. Please, not only you, all the viewers that are out there, listen to me. This situation is beyond dire. These people are trying. I’ve had the great opportunity to meet with Mitch and Tim and others, and all kinds of — Roman and the other Tim, and on and on and on. Good people. They’re good. They’re good people. And they want to try to help, just like I want to try to help. But I am telling you to the best that Jim Justice could possibly tell you, you elected me to try to get us out of Ricky Mokel’s hole. That’s what you elected me to do. New ideas. Aggressive ideas. Bold ideas.
We’re dying. We are dying. It is so bloomin’ bad, you can’t possibly imagine it. Now, there’s a way out. There’s real prosperity in front of us. There’s a way out.
I would tell you, a long, long time ago, Frankenstein, he used to walk through the streets like “boom, boom,” and I always thought, if you got caught by Frankenstein, you deserve to die.
Now, I would tell you just this. If we don’t do anything, and all we do is kick the can down the road, and all we do is fight, then we deserve to die.
I really believe there’s a rocket ship ride right at our fingerprints. A ride like you cannot possibly imagine. I would say to you: Let’s don’t just try to figure out how to just get by. Let’s cannonball right in the middle of the pool. We can do this. We absolutely can do it.
Now, I would say to the outside world: Call all your legislators. Call all your in-laws and your outlaws and your neighbors. Call them all. This is a pathway. I’ve given you a real pathway. And I hope that you’ll seriously consider it.
Now, it was folksy. It was just plain talk. That’s all I know. We have an incredible, incredible obligation and an unbelievable opportunity.
Now I would say with all these great people, all of you, together, with this great body, you can have my heart and soul. I will work with you with every ounce of being that I have. Together, this great body and myself — and this isn’t a very great body — but all of us will get there.
Now, let me tell you just this and then I’ll end. My basketball teams, a lot of times they say two words coming out on the floor. And they scream them. And do you know the other night Tom Brady led a comeback that was unbelievable, didn’t he? Unbelievable. No one could have possibly imagined it. And you know what he did? He took the Super Bowl trophy — I watched him do this — he stood on that podium and he screamed, “Let’s go!” After he had won.
Well, I’d say to you: Let’s go!
God bless you all. Thank you.