In what can best be described as an eyeroll reaction moment, Governor Jim Justice recently called for conservative rural Virginia counties who disliked the Commonwealth’s new Democratic leadership to secede and become a part of West Virginia. Liberty University President and evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr. also chimed in, telling Virginians to flee the “barbaric, totalitarian regime” that has taken up residence in Richmond.
In other eyeroll news, the West Virginia Senate has adopted a resolution to remind Virginia residents from Frederick County that they have a standing invitation — from 1862 — to become part of West Virginia. Frederick County, and legislators on both sides of the aisle in Richmond, responded to this overture with expressions of disbelief and howls of laughter.
Many West Virginians also laughed at the story, but they shouldn’t be laughing. They should be asking Republicans who control the state house in Charleston why, given the myriad of problems West Virginia faces, they are wasting time with such nonsense legislation. Not that it’s the first time they’ve done so.
Other than to escape what conservatives decry as a liberal dictatorship that’s a’comin’ to take all their guns, Virginians don’t have many reasons to consider becoming West Virginians. They enjoy the same outdoor attractions and overall mild climate. Much of the Commonwealth is comprised of small towns as West Virginia is. The overall cost of living is somewhat higher in Virginia but residents benefit from much higher wages and more employment opportunities. The population grown from 5.44 million in 1980 to 8.52 million today.
Contrast that with West Virginia, which is suffering from a population drain as younger people move away after graduation in search of better opportunities. The state has lost 148,000 residents since 1980.
The legislature has dramatically changed the state’s tax system, reducing business taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars per year. It has also enacted right to work laws and done away with prevailing wage. These moves were supposed to create thousands of new jobs. They didn’t.
Not having learned from this, in 2020 the legislature has proposed eliminating the business personal property tax, which covers things like machinery and equipment, tools, fixtures and inventory. We’re being told once again that these cuts will create jobs. They won’t.
Corporate tax cuts have to be made up somewhere, and guess where? The pockets of private individuals. Local governments have raised sales and excise taxes and the state government has raised taxes on tobacco, gas and online sales while increasing DMV fees.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has shown a remarkable lack of interest in the job he sought, seldom if ever even making an appearance in the state capitol. The man who ran a Trump-like campaign touting his “self made” billionaire status and his supposedly unique ability to fix problems, has done little to actually address the issues facing the state.
People are leaving in droves. Essential services are being scaled back or cut completely. Many communities lack clean drinking water. Hospitals in remote areas are closing. The opioid crisis has only worsened.
Jim Justice’s answer to all these problems is to have a ridiculous presser with an evangelist who himself is just a slightly more savory character than the governor, and welcome with open arms those Virginians who are basically just upset over the Commonwealth’s recent election results.
Clue to the governor: People need a reason to move here other than being butt-hurt over politics.