Candidates for West Virginia Governor debate the State of the State

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — Governor Justice touted economic improvements in West Virginia, including low unemployment, rapid business growth, and higher income tax revenue. But critics say deficits are growing because the severance tax rates on coal and gas were cut.

“The only reason we don’t have the money is state government is because he’s given it away to him and his buddies in the form of corporate tax breaks,” said Stephen Smith, a Democratic candidate for Governor of West Virginia.

The Governor wants to set aside 150 million dollars in Medicaid funds for future health care needs. Critics say that future is now.

“We’re losing hospitals due to very low Medicaid reimbursement. And so, you know, we’re not providing adequate mental health services,” said State Sen. Ron Stollings, another Democratic candidate for Governor of West Virginia.

As for the Governor’s planned $147-million dollars more for secondary road maintenance, even fellow Republicans say it’s not enough.

“Now we’re spending lots of money on highways, but it’s on new highway construction. Very little attention to the maintenance of our primary and secondary routes, which is what everybody goes to work, every day on,” said Woody Thrasher, a Republican candidate for Governor of West Virginia.

And the Governor proposed adding 87 new workers at Child Protective Services to deal with the state’s 7,000 foster kids.

“No, we certainly need more than that. I mean this is a pretty significant issue, and just adding some of the workers is not enough,” said Commissioner Ben Salango, a third Democratic candidate for Governor of West Virginia.

Former Republican Delegate Mike Folk is running for Governor, too, and has been highly critical of the former Democrat Jim Justice.

While the 60-day Legislative Session is in full swing and grabs most of the headlines, these candidates are also in a time crunch. That’s because the West Virginia primary is now just four months away.

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