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W.Va. Gov. Justice highlights strong economy in State of the State address

Jan 08 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday delivered the State of the State, saying West Virginia is on a path of continued economic growth.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our state is strong and it’s growing stronger every day,” Justice said, saying West Virginia has had $3 billion in economic growth in the last fiscal year.

The governor said there are surpluses in funds, including the Division of Highways, the PEIA reserve and the state’s public insurance (PEIA) fund.

Justice cited strong growth for consumer sales and personal income, higher employment and Medicaid enrollment.

He said among the goals for fiscal year 2021 is to preserve the state's stable bond rating and capture savings resulting from good management of state programs, especially the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).

"My budget will include a solution to eliminating the waitlist for the Intellectual Developmental Disabilities Waiver program which will allow 1,060 more West Virginians to receive this critical service," the governor said.

The governor said personal income is expected to grow 1.2 percent from fiscal year 2020 to 2021.

Justice also said he wants to commit millions of dollars to help with food insecurity, to a narcotics intelligence unit and to programs to help those devastated by the drug epidemic.

He said he's looking at finding new cost-effective ways to use and burn coal and push forward on a tourism industry that he says is growing.

Early during his address, he spoke of the controversy involving Department of Corrections cadets and instructors involved in a Nazi salute. That photo went viral late last year, and most of the people involved have been terminated.

“There's no place for anti-Semitism on my watch,” Justice said.

Also during the address, the governor recognized Jennifer Schwertfeger as West Virginia 2020 Teacher of the Year. She is a science teacher at Cameron High School in Marshall County.

Medal of Honor recipient Hershel "Woody" Williams received the biggest ovation of the night when he lobbied on behalf of families who lost loved ones to combat. Construction started last summer on the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at the state Capitol complex, and Williams appealed to the governor and lawmakers to help complete the project.

Justice said the $12,000 needed for the monument will come out of the state contingency fund. For a complete transcript and video of the State of the State address, click here.