CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Jim Justice began his Thursday press briefing by going over 18 new coronavirus deaths reported to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, several of which were the result of reconciliations with death certificates.
The state is now reporting 2,897 total deaths during the pandemic.
The DHHR recorded 56 new cases of the disease since its last update. There are 1,334 active cases, along with 159,866 recoveries.
The daily percent positivity rate is 1.53%, while the cumulative percent positivity rate is 5.01%.
The governor touched on the so-called Delta variant of coronavirus and the need to get vaccinated.
“From the standpoint of the Delta variant that we’re all concerned about, and is really beginning to, to, in its infancy, to move in West Virginia, these vaccines are extremely effective, you know, against that variant,” said Justice.
Justice took time to recognize the winners from the latest “Do it for Babydog” lottery, and he encouraged people to get vaccinated and registered for the drawings.
“If you haven’t gotten your vaccination, you’re crazy,” Justice said with a laugh. “I mean, that’s all there is to it.”
The state’s fiscal year was also a topic of conversation on Thursday. The fiscal year ended June 30, and Justice said West Virginia is hundreds of millions of dollars in the black.
“In the year that we just ended on June the 30, yesterday, we came in at $458.1 million, $458.1 million above budget. Absolutely, a surplus that is unprecedented. Twice I have called the legislature back in to spend those dollars on things that can help West Virginians,” said Justice.
The governor said projects he pushed included $150 million for road improvement projects in every county and $250 million for a variety of other projects.
Justice said the state has also put $50 million into its Revenue Shortfall Reserve Fund, commonly called the Rainy Day Fund, to push it past $1 billion. Further, $45 million is going into the Income Tax Reserve Fund, according to Justice.
The governor also went over various tax revenue sources and the amount of taxes the state took in during the past fiscal year. He said revenue from the consumer sales tax was 10.9% above the prior year. The corporate net tax figure more than doubled from $152 million to $320 million.
As for personal income tax, revenues are up 15.7% from the previous year.
Severance taxes have recovered since January when they were down by 50%, according to Justice. At the end of the year, the state was up 2.7% versus the previous year in this area.
“The fact that our state is diversified today in many different areas, from medicine, to high tech, to tourism, to all the different things that are happening all across our state, severance tax being up is another goody, that’s for sure, but it is not the only goody. In fact, it’s a long ways from it,” said Justice.
The state’s percentage of revenues coming from severance taxes is “probably the lowest that they’ve been in decades,” the governor explained.
“If they’re the lowest that they’ve been in decades, and West Virginia’s doing so good, well why is that? We’re diversified. We’re absolutely doing things in a lot of different areas,” Justice added.