It’s no secret that West Virginia’s newly elected governor, billionaire Jim Justice and the Republican leadership in the House and Senate are not the best of buds.
In the past, Justice has compared himself to a grizzly bear and his Republican opponents as barking poodles.
On Tuesday, however, the stakes were raised even higher, when Governor Justice accused the Republican-led legislature of not wanting to “come clean” about the specific budget cuts they are planning. Justice said that the GOP budget cuts will be so painful they want to “cut and run” — make the cuts and then run for the hills.
Justice highlighted how much pain would be inflicted to West Virginians if the Republicans follow through on their pledge to cut at least $50 million from the Medicaid Program under the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). He stressed that GOP lawmakers haven’t offered specific cuts because they don’t want to level with West Virginians on exactly who will be on the chopping block.
“The Republicans don’t want to share the concrete specifics of their budget cuts because they know how much they’ll hurt people,” said Governor Jim Justice. “The other side says they want to cut at least $50 million from Medicaid so they should man up and tell the people what they are doing. Playing these kind of political shell games is what created this budget crisis, and it’s not right.”
Following his remarks, Governor Justice ordered the emergency lantern on the top of the Capitol dome be turned on until the budget crisis is resolved. The Governor said it would be a full scale emergency for the state’s most vulnerable citizens who count on programs funded through DHHR.
Following the Governor’s remarks, House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, issued the a statement in response to Justice’s order to light the emergency lantern on the state Capitol in order to pressure the Legislature to pass his “tax increase proposals.”
“Last year, when 23 of our fellow West Virginians died and thousands were left homeless in one of our state’s greatest tragedies – including many of the people I represent – the light on the top of our Capitol dome was turned on out of respect to our affected citizens,” Speaker Armstead said. “That light had meaning to those of us affected by the flood, it showed the state stood with us in our time of tragedy.
“Today, with the same immature and cavalier attitude he has displayed almost every day since becoming Governor, Jim Justice has belittled and made a joke of a symbol that should not be politicized,” Speaker Armstead said. “The Governor owes those affected by tragedies an apology. He owes the people of West Virginia an apology.
“It’s time for Jim Justice to decide whether he will finally take seriously the sacred job with which the people of West Virginia have entrusted him, or if he will simply continue to treat the people and their elected representatives with disrespect,” Speaker Armstead said. “The Governor’s stunt relating to the dome shows how little respect he has for the people of our state. His threat to shut down our government if he doesn’t get his way is also just the latest example of this disrespect.
Many of the governor’s detractors have been quick to point out that the last thing a state facing the financial crisis West Virginia is currently seeing should be doing is creating a higher electric bill for itself.
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