LOGAN, W.Va. — With election day drawing near, gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice made a campaign stop in Logan County November 3.
Justice addressed a crowd of more than 400 people at the Fountain Place Cinema 8 laying out his vision for West Virginia based on coal, tourism, a renewed focus on education and solving the state’s continued problem with drug abuse.
One of the featured themes of the speech focused on West Virginia’s low rankings in key statistics.
“The reality for me is real simple. I can’t stand us being dead last. We’re dead last in too many things, and we’re too blooming good to be dead last,” noted Justice.
Part of Justice’s plan for the state’s economy involves a resurgence in collection of coal severance tax.
Noting the current increase in prices for both metallurgical and steam coal, Justice explained the state’s budget would in part to be bolstered by an increase in severance tax collections.
Justice also acknowledged economic actives other than coal will be needed for the state to flourish.
Justice explained, “We need coal, we need tourism, we need the possibility of agriculture, we need our timber industry to thrive, we need value added from natural gas, and we need opportunity…”
Justice also noted he wanted to make education the central focus of his administration saying, “I really believe we should push education right to the centerpiece of everything we do. You absolutely have to fund it, but it can become an economic driver for us and bring us money. It can be an opportunity for us.”
Justice took time to address a recent press release from his companies promoting the hiring of 375 additional miners at four mines in Raleigh, Wyoming and McDowell counties.
Justice added about 100 of the positions have already been filled.
According to reports from the Associated Press, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole called the move a political ploy to gain votes.
The Justice Corp. reportedly says plans to reopen the mines have been in development for months.
After the event, Justice took time to answer questions from the Logan Banner.
When asked about his message to the people of the coalfields Justice commented, “I believe in coal and I believe I have the experience and the contacts and the ability to pull us out of this mess. You cannot tax your way out of this, you cannot cut your way out of this. You have to grow out of this.”
While answering questions about the future of West Virginia, Justice commented, “I truly believe our shortfall is going to narrow-in because severance tax is going to grow. We’ve got to bring more to the table besides coal severance tax. First of all I’m going to present a highway plan in order to significantly and aggressively build our infrastructure. In ten months we’ll be on our way.”
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1729 or by email at [email protected]