Gov. Jim Justice’s shopping spree for luxury pickups has cost taxpayers just over $1 million to date, documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request show.
As part of the more than $10 million COVID-19 vaccination incentive sweepstakes, the governor has been flying around the state for the past four Wednesdays presenting trucks to two weekly winners selected in drawings conducted by the West Virginia Lottery.
The total tab, with 13 of the 14 trucks to be given away purchased, is $1,007,187, according to invoices released by the Governor’s Office. Notably, all purchases are on the Governor’s Office P-Card, the state-issued credit card.
Two dealerships, Thornhill Ford Lincoln and Thornhill Superstore, both located in Chapmanville, added P-Card fees of $2,885, $2,705 and $2,655, respectively, to the purchase prices of two Ford F-150s and one Chevrolet Silverado sold to the Governor’s Office, according to invoices.
When Justice initially announced the vaccination incentive sweepstakes in May, he said he would be giving away luxury versions of Ford F-150s.
However, with a nationwide shortage of new vehicles, a seller’s market has left the Governor’s Office scrambling to find luxury pickups on the lots of West Virginia dealerships and, as a result, only four of the 13 trucks purchased to date are F-150s.
Contest winners are more likely to drive home in Silverados, of which the Governor’s Office has purchased six to date.
Purchases since July 12 suggest that the Governor’s Office has more recently been buying whatever it can find to come up with 14 pickups for Justice to give away by the time the sweepstakes ends on Aug. 4.
That includes an $83,109 Dodge Ram Longhorn 4x4 from Stephens Auto Center, a $74,341 Jeep Gladiator from Sheets Chrysler Dodge Jeep, and a $55,172 Toyota Tacoma from Ramey Motors.
The Tacoma was the least expensive purchase to date, with a $91,797 Silverado from Moses Chevrolet being the most expensive.
Other pickups priced at over $85,000 include an $85,162 Silverado from Yes Chevrolet, an $86,960 F-150 from Moses Ford and an $89,677 Silverado from Moses Chevrolet.
All vehicles purchased are 2021 models.
The Governor’s Office bought vehicles from nine dealerships, including two trucks each from Moses Chevrolet, Thornhill Ford Lincoln, Stephens Auto Center and Weimer Chevrolet Buick.
Justice has said purchases of sweepstakes prizes, as well as the weekly $1 million cash prizes, are being paid out of unexpended federal CARES Act funds the state received in 2020.
According to the State Auditor’s Office, as of July 19, West Virginia had a balance of $578.68 million out of the original $1.27 billion of CARES Act appropriations.
Justice has proceeded with the seven weeks of sweepstakes drawings, even though state vaccination rates have continued to plummet since the contest began.
“You could say, well, they’re not terribly successful,” the governor said when asked in June about the sweepstakes failure to incentivize West Virginians to get vaccinated.
“We’ve got to continue to try,” he said. “There’s no reason whatsoever to call it off.”