Jim Justice: Fix budget crisis with more jobs, targeted cuts (Gazette)

By By Jim Justice

My dad always told me never to confuse effort with accomplishment. When you look at the politicians in Charleston today, you’ll see that they’re all talk and no action. Just look around. When was the last time you saw a new company come to your area? Some of our communities have more boarded-up storefronts than stores open for business, and it’s a shame.

The leadership in the House and the Senate dropped the ball on fixing the budget crisis. They wasted so much time this winter pointing fingers and passing the buck without doing diddly to create jobs. The Legislature even passed a bill to allow the consumption of raw milk in West Virginia, after which lawmakers immediately celebrated by drinking it in the Capitol. Now it looks as if the celebratory milk made lawmakers sick. Talk about confusing effort with accomplishment. West Virginia may now have raw milk; however, the families of this state got a raw deal in the 2016 session.

We have a budget mess, because the politicians in charge were busy playing political games and could not do the job the people trusted them to do. Gov. Tomblin deserves credit for trying to keep the Legislature focused on solving the budget. Too bad they refused to listen.

I am not a career politician; I am a career businessman. I’ve stepped up to take on tough projects and turned them around. I rescued The Greenbrier from bankruptcy when it was bleeding $1 million a week for 38 consecutive weeks. The Greenbrier faced an uphill slog, and it wasn’t an easy fix, but now it is thriving.

Similarly, the coal business is facing tough times. I’ve reopened coal mines that other companies walked away from and that folks thought would stay closed forever. I did it by bringing the right people together, making smart investments and cutting the dead weight.

It’s no accident that I turned The Greenbrier right side up and created new jobs by bringing the PGA Tour to West Virginia, the New Orleans Saints training camp to the state, the NBA, world-class concerts, and many other ventures that the “experts” said were impossible. In 1978, I grew my first crop of corn on 132 acres in Monroe County, West Virginia, and today, my company farms 50,000 acres across four states. What I’ve done in the coal business, at my farms, and at The Greenbrier, I will do for our state.

We need to diversify the West Virginia economy. Right now, we are missing so many opportunities in education, coal, gas, agriculture, tourism, the medical industry and many other areas. I can get a meeting with the head of any major company and make them give our state a serious look. One of my top priorities is to bring investors in from around the world to create jobs in West Virginia. Why not West Virginia?

The way forward is to give West Virginians the opportunity to work. As governor, I will bring jobs to this state and grow our way out of this fiscal ditch. That’s how we will end the budget crisis, not by passing raw milk legislation.

We cannot tax our people to death. Just like in the business world, we need to make responsible cuts. West Virginia must rein in the size of government by attrition — reviewing whether we need to replace government employees after they retire or leave. Our state needs to find cost savings through modernizing government. With the right amount of cross-training in the state workforce, we can be more efficient.

It doesn’t sit well with me that the political class expects West Virginia families to just take it. Charleston looks too much like Washington these days. The political establishment is nervous because it knows that outsiders like me will end the gravy train of politics as usual.

It’s time that outsiders across the state get off the sidelines and get in the game to take back West Virginia. I am not running for governor to move the needle a tic; I want West Virginia to be nationally competitive. If you like what you see happening in Charleston, then continue voting for the career politicians who can’t even pass a budget. If you really want to turn West Virginia around, join me. We need more outsiders willing to stand up and fight for West Virginia’s hard-working families.

Jim Justice is a Democratic candidate for governor.

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