Local leaders respond positively to governor’s State of State address
CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice pleased both Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday night with a State of the State address that addressed education, jobs, addiction and tourism, to name a few.
Area legislators, plus Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert, said they were happy with Justice’s agenda.
Del. Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell, said as the chairman of the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse Committee, he heard a lot he was excited about, particularly “Jim’s Dream,” a workforce development program for those in recovery.
“One thing I heard that is very encouraging is not only getting people treated but getting them work ready,” he said. “Ultimately, that’s the goal — to get people back to productive lives, and you are not going to do that without having a job. The workforce development tied in with treatment is going to be the way to go. We have to go that way.”
He said he stands ready to work with the House and the Senate to accomplish that goal.
When talking about substance abuse, Justice highlighted Huntington’s efforts to reduce overdose deaths by 40 percent and gave a shout-out to Marshall for its efforts. Gilbert said he was happy to hear that, while also happy to hear higher education funding was not being cut and his faculty and staff will be receiving another pay raise.
“We have Marshall Day on Monday, and we are excited to be up here,” Gilbert said. “We look forward to working with the Legislature in improving things for the state and improving education, and helping the state in educating more people. It’s something we always all need to be working on and should be the forefront of what we do, educating people and getting them into jobs.”
Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, said he was pleased Justice made education the centerpiece of his plans, along with additional funding for secondary roads and dilapidated housing, two big issues for his constituents in Cabell and Lincoln counties.
As a businessman, though, Hornbuckle said he thinks Justice needs to change his “etched in stone” opinion on recreational marijuana.
“From a business perspective, it can do a lot to help fund education, infrastructure and law enforcement,” he said. “We cannot turn our eyes to that. The governor talks about being tired of being 50th, so why would we want to be last to the dance on recreational marijuana when in 10 years it will become federally legal?”
Hornbuckle also said while he liked the agenda of making West Virginia a place people choose to live, the state needs to make sure it is better for all, and he will have legislation to do that.
Del. Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, said he was happy to hear the House, Senate and the governor are on the same page with many things, from eliminating Social Security income tax to addressing secondary roads.
He said personally he was excited at the proposal to have computer science courses in all high schools.
“Twenty-first-century jobs are incredibly important, and with the broadband we are looking to pass, we are going to be expanding high-speed internet coverage to all reaches of the state with partners in the federal government — we are going to partner with every level of government to make this happen. And so making sure people are computer literate and people are comfortable with that is really going to equip our workforce.”
Del. John Mandt Jr., R-Cabell, said he thought the governor hit a lot of points important to Cabell County — from addiction recovery to roads. He was also pleased to hear the governor support fixes to the medical marijuana program.
“We have set our goal high,” he said.
Del. Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, said the governor had a lot of great ideas, but he wasn’t sure how all the math worked out.
“With the amount of surplus, and statutorily half of that has to go into the Rainy Day fund, there’s a lot of plans, so I think the work this session will be prioritizing to take care of all the needs, many of which he discussed here tonight like taking care of seniors with Social Security income tax, the business and inventory tax, education — a lot of great ideas, but how do you do that with half the surplus,” he said.
The Legislature will reconvene at 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 10.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.