Billionaire Jim Justice Criticized for Unpaid Tax Bills

Oct 15, 2015

Jim Justice
Credit Scott Halleran / Getty Images

West Virginia’s only billionaire, who just happens to be running for governor, owns companies that have millions in unpaid tax bills.

On “The Front Porch” podcast, we discuss Jim Justice and his company's debts.

Justice’s companies owe $3.5 million in back taxes, mostly to counties in eastern Kentucky, according to a story the Lexington Herald-Leader.

After the story broke, one of Justice’s companies paid off its debt in McDowell County, W.Va. - $166,000.

Grant Herring, Justice for West Virginia Communications Director, said Justice inherited the McDowell County debt when he bought a mine from a Russian coal company, and that Justice's company has been paying off that debt in installments.

Defenders of Justice point out, at least most of his companies are still operating, while other coal mines shut down entirely. They say that each company must be responsible for making a profit and paying off its own debts.

It is unclear when the debts in Kentucky might be paid, according to the reporter who broke that story, Bill Estep.

Estep spoke recently with West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Scott Finn and Laurie Lin on our podcast “The Front Porch.” In it, he explains how he connected the dots between Justice and the coal companies that owe millions in taxes.

“I understand the corporate philosophy that you want each company to sink or swim on its own. But in the real world, these counties want their money," Estep said.

Subscribe to "The Front Porch" podcast on iTunes or however you listen to podcasts.

An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available above.

Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you'd like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail Scott at sfinn @ wvpublic.org

UPDATE: Oct. 16, 2015

We have invited the Justice campaign to be interviewed,  and the campaign provided this statement from Southern Coal spokesman Tom Lusk:

“Without question today the coal business is the worst we have seen in our lifetimes.  In regard to the Kentucky taxes; they are being paid and will be paid in full.  It should be pointed out that many other companies have opted for an easy out – BANKRUPTCY – where taxes, vendors, and workers are all devastated.  Justice continues to pay his obligations and keep people working."