Justice say too soon to identify ways to cut budget gap


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s incoming governor said Thursday that he wants to closely examine state finances before deciding how to approach the government’s projected $400 million budget deficit next year.

Gov.-elect Jim Justice said they’ve “got to scrub all the financials in every way and see really where we stand,” which will show the way forward.

An owner of coal mines and other businesses, Justice said he still believes there will be significant tax gains from increased coal mining, a budget gap will remain, and he doesn’t want to raise taxes or just cut.

Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss recently told West Virginia lawmakers they probably will have to figure out how to close a funding deficit of more than $400 million when they begin work on the state’s 2017-18 budget in February. The fiscal year starts in July.

Justice was in Charleston on Thursday for a meeting of his transition policy committees. He told reporters that he’s asking people to work “outside the box” for approaches going forward.

He also said that he’ll remove himself completely from his businesses’ daily decisions as governor, that it would be “frivolous” to close businesses to contribute millions of dollars to the state, and he doesn’t want anything from his new post for them. “I ran for this office for nothing for me,” he said.

Justice called “despicable” two recent apparently racist incidents in West Virginia — a black teen shot by a white man and a racist tweet by the director of a state-supported nonprofit about First Lady Michelle Obama. “There’s no place … in any of society for racial issues today,” he said.

Pamela Taylor was suspended for six weeks from the Clay County organization provides services to elderly and low-income residents. Justice was asked whether she should go back. “I don’t know all the particulars about the job, but if I were to say, I’d say no because I just think it’s outrageous,” he said.

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