Governor Jim Justice made a stop at Fairmont State University on Thursday as part of his Save Our State tour, a statewide tour to promote his budget plan.
Justice asked lawmakers in his State of the State Address for more than $450 million in tax and fee increases, something Legislative leaders strongly oppose. On Monday, Justice released a second potential budget plan with smaller tax increases, but he said lawmakers still haven't acted on any of his proposals.
"I put stuff on the table in the State of the State and nobody did anything," he said at FSU. "And all of the sudden we're a third of the way into the session, and who knows what in the world we're doing."
Lawmakers traditionally do not vote on a final budget bill until the end of the legislative session.
Justice repeated many of the same messages that he's been sharing with West Virginians since he began the tour a few weeks ago: he warned the audience that the state’s economy is suffering, he reminded them that he isn’t responsible for creating the suffering, and he said that everyone should be prepared to make sacrifices to help West Virginia recover.
The Governor has stated that if the West Virginia Legislature doesn’t pass revenue measures during this legislative session, FSU, along with other colleges, could be completely eliminated from the state budget.
"We’ve all got to pull the rope and run up the hill together," he said at FSU, using a metaphor of tugging a rope to illustrate how he thinks the state should face its uphill financial battles.
After Justice’s speech, FSU President Maria Rose said that the university continues to do its part to pull that metaphorical rope.
"We have experienced a number of budget cuts at the university and at (Pierpont Community & Technical College) over the past couple of years," she said. "We have tried to trim our budgets as much as we can. We have tried to keep tuition at an affordable rate."
She added that the potential of a future without FSU would be devastating for the local economy.
"I think the city of Fairmont needs to think about what the city would be like if the city and community college were not here," she said.
In response to Justice’s budget press conference on Monday, Republican House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Mitch Carmichael issued a joint statement stating that they were pleased to hear that the governor had listened to some of their concerns, and hoped to continue working with him on the budget this session.
Justice also made a Save Our State tour stop at the Randolph County Senior Center on Thursday.