Gov. Jim Justice announced that August revenue numbers came in above estimates Tuesday, but only after adorning his staff and legislative leaders with floral leis; trashing the media; and showing footage of himself, his revenue secretary and a TV news broadcast, all detailing July’s numbers.
In August, general revenue collections came in $33.4 million above estimates and 15 percent above the prior year’s receipts. Revenues were well above average for the second month in a row; July’s numbers came in $32.4 million above estimates.
Before the announcement, Justice invited new House of Delegates Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay; Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson; Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy, Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow and Budget Office Director Michael Cook to join him and don leis for the second month in a row to break the good news.
That came after a 13-minute leadoff tirade, interrupted by the video segment, in which Justice swung between criticizing the media and touting the work of the Republican-led Legislature and his administration’s efforts.
“Let me say this before we go in great detail,” the governor said upon arriving. “A lot of times it’s difficult — there are a few of you that are, a very, very small minority, in that no matter what is said, no matter what’s done, you print garbage, to tell you the honest truth.”
He later referenced that “we write about the flowers,” an apparent allusion to columns written by Gazette-Mail reporter and columnist Phil Kabler, who Justice later criticized by name.
Justice went on to repeat his refrain that the media does not depict the state and its economy in a positive enough light.
“Governor, why are we beginning with a lecture on the media?” WV MetroNews Brad McElhinny asked in the midst of the diatribe. Justice continued.
Later, the governor commented on the fact that many legislative leaders and the general public, not just the media, expressed skepticism regarding a midyear revenue projections adjustment he made in the midst of a statewide teacher and school service personnel strike.
“We don’t need to get in a food fight, OK, hear me out,” said Justice. “I want to be your best buddy. But it’s just tough when things have turned, as I know they’ve turned, and then watch these sideline carnival shows. Because that’s what they are, carnival shows that just don’t mean anything.”
According to data Justice provided, monthly revenue estimates have stayed above projections since March 2018.
He said the revenue growth goes back to spikes in severance ($16.7 million above estimates), consumer sales ($7.2 million above estimates) and personal income ($4.2 million above estimates) tax collections.
Speaking after Justice, Hardy said it’s critical to remember that 20 months ago, the state was about $500 million in the red, and the numbers are indicative of a surging economy.
“Trust me, these numbers, in my experience, in 22 years, I’ve never seen revenue numbers grow like this, ever,” Hardy said.
The growth in severance tax collections was partially attributable to growth in the value of foreign exports of coal, higher natural gas prices compared to last year, and greater price stability this summer, according to a news release from Justice.