Governor is just wrong

Well, West Virginia. If you were tired of being last in everything, you were at least first in something last week.

On Thursday, West Virginia very well may have become the first state in which the sitting governor used an actual pile of cow manure to make a point.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody that Gov. Jim Justice wanted no part of a conservative, balanced budget. He’s been practically begging for massive tax increases from his first day in office.

What was downright surprising is how he rejected the Legislature’s efforts. Sure, in typical Gov. Justice fashion, it was a controlled media event where he spun a lot of empty folksy expressions and very little fact. But, as they say, he saved the best for last when he brought out three silver trays as a prop.

“We don’t have a nothing burger today, and we don’t have a mayonnaise sandwich. What we have is nothing more than a bunch of political bull you-know-what,” he said, as he opened a silver platter to reveal what would become the real star of the show sitting on top of a copy of the 2018 Budget Bill. “For that very reason, I’m signing my name on the budget veto and I hope and pray that the silliness will stop and we’ll do the right thing.”

If demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in new government spending while traveling the state at taxpayer expense to ask for it wasn’t enough to outrage you, maybe Thursday’s stunt was enough. Within hours, the governor’s dangerously unserious press conference was national news.

What was lost in that news? The governor not only wants to saddle the hard-working men and women of this state with more taxes, he wants them to pay for an unnecessary special session. From the beginning, Senate leadership committed to producing a budget that would require the state to live within its means and to do that without raising taxes. Further, we were committed to doing it within the 60-day session.

The Legislature delivered on its promise. The governor, however, didn’t deliver on any of his. The man who ran for office saying he wasn’t going to tax you is 100 percent committed to taxing you.

Now, he’s going to make the Legislature come back — at your expense — and try to force that to happen.

In his theatrics Thursday, the governor recklessly misled the public again about the Legislature’s budget:

Our cuts will force him to close colleges. (West Liberty’s reduction represented 0.7 percent of their total budget.)

We’ve gutted public education. (The state School Aid Formula for county schools was untouched.)

There’s no money for tourism! (Read that as: “There’s nothing in this budget just to advertise my hotel.”)

The Legislature abandoned our seniors and the disabled. (There are absolutely no cuts to the Medicaid Waiver programs.)

And that’s barely scratching the surface of his blizzard of lies. You know, for a guy who talks about wanting to cut out the bull, there sure was a lot of it there. You can’t berate a group of people for being dishonest while you’re not telling the truth.

And in among three whiteboards, a bunch of hyperbole, and actual cow manure, there was very little truth to what the governor presented the public on Thursday.

He’s a guy who didn’t negotiate with voters in good faith, didn’t negotiate with the Legislature in good faith, and now won’t be honest with reporters or your elected representatives.

Now more than ever, our state needs leadership. Now more than ever, it’s clear that leadership will not come from the governor. If you had any questions about how little the governor respects both constitutional government and the taxpayers of West Virginia, those should be put to rest. He vetoed what we considered to be a responsible, reasonable budget so he can try to raise taxes and grow government.

A man who refuses to pay his own taxes plans to hold this state hostage to try to make us all pay more. I don’t need any folksy slogans or biohazards to tell you that’s just wrong.

Ferns is majority leader of the West Virginia State Senate. He represents the First Senate District. A licensed physical therapist, he is owner of The Ryan Ferns Healthplex Inc. in Benwood. He can be reached at 304-357-7918 or ryan.ferns@wvsenate.gov.


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