Justice discusses budget proposals at infrastructure lecture
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West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice delivered a speech Wednesday afternoon on his proposals to solve the state budget deficit during an infrastructure lecture in the Arthur Weisberg Family Applied Engineering Complex.
“I feel like all of the easy stuff has already left us,” Justice said. “This is hard, this hurts people, it starts cutting into the bone. And in all honesty, our state is in disarray like you can’t believe. If you have someone tell you no, no, no, it’s okay. I’m telling you to the best of my abilities that if we don’t do something and do something right now, we’re going to spiral into no man’s land.”
Justice’s proposals include a quarter cent sales tax, raising DMV fees from $30 to $50, a four and a half cent tax on gasoline, taxes on cigarettes and soda, increasing tolls on roads and highways from $2 to $4 and increasing taxes on those making over $200,000.
While the DMV fees would be raised to $50, Justice said car inspections would only be required every three years instead of yearly. Justice also said while tolls would raise from $2 for $4, those who live in West Virginia would only have to pay an $8 fee and would then be able to travel through the tolls for free.
“Here’s your choices, same old same old, where people don’t think outside the box and they say let’s just cut higher ed, or let’s just cut the people who are the most exposed, the weak, the poor, the disabled or our seniors,” Justice said.
Justice tied his proposals to infrastructure by saying these proposals would not only solve the state’s budget deficit, they would also lead 48,000 new jobs, including engineering jobs.
Engineering students James Dishner and Jake Davis said if the state doesn’t fix the budget deficit and create a climate for jobs in West Virginia there won’t be very many opportunities for engineering graduates to stay in the state.
“I don’t really like the direction that our state is headed in as far as the industry goes in civil engineering,” Davis said.
“I think it’s time for a change, whatever we’re doing now it isn’t working,” Dishner said.
Marshall President Jerry Gilbert spoke before Justice and said something needs to be done about the state’s current budget crisis.
“I agree that we are in a time that we need to start thinking differently about our state, and it’s time to go outside our comfort zone. We need to be open to being doers, not just talkers,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert also said he fears if these proposals weren’t adopted that state assistance to Marshall would be negatively impacted.
“There’s a proposal out there to cut higher education by up to 20 percent and if they do that it would be devastating to higher education, the quality would go down and the cost would go up, so I don’t think that’s a very wise choice,” Gilbert said.
Other speakers at the lecture included Weal Zatar, dean of the College of Information Technology and Engineering, engineering student Paige Thewes and West Virginia Secretary ofTransportation Tom Smith.
Adam Stephens can be contacted at [email protected]