West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice discussed state efforts to improve roads, his opposition to sanctuary cities and his administration’s work to combat addiction at his annual State of the State Address Wednesday evening.
One thing Democrats said they didn’t hear?
“West Virginia is hemorrhaging population,” Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, said.
Sponaugle was joined by Sen. William Ihlenfeld, D-Ohio, at a press conference Wednesday in response to Justice’s speech, to describe their party’s concern about a “mass exodus” of people leaving West Virginia during the past decade.
From 2010 to 2018, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy reported the state noticed a 47,000-person decline in its population (about 2.6 percent).
“We can put policies into place that will turn things around in West Virginia, and stop this mass exodus,” Ihlenfeld said. “We can implement policies that will keep students to seniors here.”
While Justice applauded Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s push for a bill to protect West Virginians with pre-existing conditions from losing healthcare, Sponaugle the majority party for previously rallying against the Affordable Care Act, which currently prohibits healthcare companies from discriminating against these clients.
“I find that humorous. Very humorous,” Sponaugle said, “in the sense that the guy that is suing to knock down the Affordable Care Act, which has protections for pre-existing conditions, and is going around talking to everybody for the last two or three years saying the result of his lawsuits will not hurt pre-existing conditions. He’s the one jumping up and down now, saying he wants to submit this piece of legislation to protect pre-existing conditions.”
Sponaugle and Ihlenfeld also spoke out against a proposal to eliminate property taxes on manufacturing equipment and inventory, for fear it will “shift tax burdens from corporations to people.”
“That’s the business inventory tax,” Ihlenfeld said. “That’s exactly what it’s going to do.”
Ihlenfeld said he plans to introduce a package of three ethics reform bills, including one that would require Justice to place all of his assets in a blind trust during his time in office.
Ihlenfeld added that the bill would apply to all future governors after acknowledging some of the current governor’s legal struggles regarding his assets.
Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.