Justice, Cole discuss budget cuts and state economy

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Justice, Cole discuss budget cuts and state economy
By Matt Maccaro, WV MetroNews

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Two announced candidates for governor spent time in Parkersburg Thursday meeting with officials and supporters.

State Senate President Bill Cole (R-Mercer) and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice, promoted jobs, education and the economy at separate events.

Cole spoke about the four percent cuts issued by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin this week for most government agencies.

“The cuts are brutal. And that’s not good news for anybody. We find ourselves one quarter into the fiscal year and they’re projecting a $250 million shortfall in the revenue,” Cole said.

The struggles of the coal industry are a big reason for the cuts. Justice thought West Virginia needs to find some other alternatives.

“We’ve got to think of a lot more things than just coal today in West Virginia,” Justice said. “Naturally we want to get our coal miners back to work. But we’ve got to expand way beyond coal in everything, and we’ve got to really crank it up.”

Cole said changes are needed in state government, and pointed out that expanding businesses already in the state is as important as bringing them in.

“To me that’s as much a part of ecnomic development as inviting new business in,” Cole said. “We’ve been bad stewards of our state government for a long time, and we did it on the backs of coal. As long as the coffers were full in Charleston, the alarm bell wasn’t ringing so we continue to be bad acts.”

Justice said that sometimes, the only holding back the Mountain State’s growth is the reluctance to change and discover new opportunity.

“I’m not a politician but I can tell you this: we have so many opportunities in our state, but we just won’t exploit them,” Justice said. “I mean, really and truly, we’re our own worst enemies in lots and lots of ways.”