West Virginia Governor Jim Justice delivers the 2023 State of the State Address.

Gov. Justice delivers his 2023 West Virginia State of the State Address

CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice presented his 2023 State of the State Address to the West Virginia Legislature on Wednesday evening.

Here is the transcript of his speech in its entirety:

(Editor’s note: some grammatical errors may be present in this transcript. A fully edited version will be posted to the Governor’s website.)

GOVERNOR JUSTICE: Okay, we’ve got a lot to talk about tonight. The first thing that I want to be sure that we’re talking about, right off the get go is just this. I was early getting here tonight. Pretty good stuff. Now, think about this. We’re honoring a great man, Bob Kiss. I got to tell you this is, full confession.

Literally, I was at the mansion. The last time I’d seen my speech, Cathy had it, and all of a sudden, I get over here and nobody’s got it. And if we hadn’t honored Bob Kiss, you would have been sitting waiting on me a long time. And so literally, it’s an honor beyond belief to be with you. And there’s so much, so much good going on in this state right now. It’s hard. It’s hard to get it all in. That’s just all there is to it. Now, with all that being said, I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to say one thing. You know, Mr. Speaker, and Mr. President, Babydog says she’s really sorry she couldn’t make it tonight. But she’s gonna get a tub of popcorn and watch it on TV. But thank you so much in every way.

And I absolutely, if I could just say this. It is an incredible day to be a West Virginian. You know, I like to always honor our First Lady, my daughter Jill is with her. And my son and his and our daughter in law. Jay and Catherine. Catherine had a little bit of a blood pressure issue today and, and so they kind of bowed out. But nevertheless, thank you all so much for all you do all the time.

Now, I’m telling y’all, if y’all do all this claping don’t blame it on me how long we’ll be here. Really appreciate that. And also, I’ve got to tell you just this girl just had us another grandbaby. A beautiful little granddaughter. Yes, not very long ago at all. Probably what, six weeks? Okay. And her husband Adam, who is a wonderful son in law, is now at home with three kids. Nevertheless, you know, a great family and, and just I’m so blessed. As always to just blessed beyond belief

If I could go through my Cabinet and I will go through quickly and hold your applause and then we’ll get you to the end. But we have a new Cabinet Secretary for DHHR Dr. Jeff Coben, a new Secretary of Commerce James Bailey, our secretary of administration is Mark Scott, our Secretary of Homeland Security is Jeff Sandy, Secretary of Revenue, Dave Hardy, our Secretary of Transportation, Jimmy Wriston, our Secretary of Veterans Assistance, Ted Diaz, our Secretary of Economic Development, Mitch Carmichael, the Secretary of Arts, Culture, and History of this great state, Randall Reid Smith. Our Secretary of Tourism Chelsea Ruby is not with us tonight because there’s a good chance she’s having a baby right as we speak now, but if not, it will be here very very soon. And the other thing the other person is not here with the stock is hell world. Our Secretary of the DEP Harold Ward is doing a phenomenal job. Now you can give them a great round of applause.

We have our wonderful, wonderful Supreme Court of Appeals. With us tonight is Chief Justice Beth Walker. Justice John Hutchinson, Justice Haley Bunn, Justice Tim Armstead, and Justice Bill Wooten, thank you so much.

Now our constitutional officers, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, our State Auditor J.B. McCuskey, our Secretary of State Mac Warner, our Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt, ourState Treasurer Riley Moore, and our State Superintendent of Schools David Roach.

We have, we have a beautiful young lady from our congressional delegation and that is our great senator Shelley Moore.

Okay, we now have our Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard Brigadier General Bill Crane, and I don’t know where Bill is wherever he is, you’ve got to cheer for him. That’s our Command Sergeant Major James Jones and he’s I think with our General. We have the Chancellor higher ed, you know, Sarah Tucker is with us tonight. We have our Commissioner of the Bureau for Senior Services Robert Roswall. Well, I’m gonna, let me get through these. We have our Director of the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs Jill Upson. And we have our WVU University President Gordon Gee, Marshall President Brad Smith and members of their staff. So now clap for them.

We have our COVID team. You just think about these people. These people literally never really took a dime, hardly. Didn’t do anything but work, didn’t have a playbook, didn’t have anything to go by. And absolutely have guided us in every way imaginable. And a heck of a job they’ve done. Dr. Clay Marsh, General Hoyer, doctor Dr. Amjad, now Dr. Christiansen, and our Secretary Crouch and Dr. Coben, please give them a round of applause.

Okay, this is the seventh time I’ve been here in front of you. I can’t, I can’t imagine that time can go that quickly. You know, the first year I jumped all around and put things on whiteboards and did everything and I sweated like a dog the entire time. Absolutely. At that time, this state was in tough, tough shape, and you all knew it, and everything. We didn’t really know where we’re going or where to turn. And today is a bright day. You know, through that time, I would tell you just this I won’t be your governor a whole lot longer. But I surely won’t go away. You know, in fact, you’re probably either be able to find me at home or you may find me in Washington. But one of the two places I’ll be and I’ll be, I’ll try to watch as best I can and help as best I can. No matter what I’m doing in every single way. I will try to help continue to perpetuate this goodness that we’ve got going on right this minute.

So if I could just add just this, if I could give you my best wisdom today and before we get into the nitty gritty of everything else. My best wisdom of the day would be just this: try as best you can to not want anything for yourself. Literally. This is an honor, beyond all comprehension. For every last one of you, do what our forefathers did, and did so admirably. They served, first and foremost they served, please don’t put self in front of that. Always try to do what your voters and constituents are asking you to do. At the end of the day, we’re here to do their work. We’re here to do the people’s wishes. Please remember that. And please try as best you can to not get in your own way. If there’s ever a time in life right now, ever a time when we could get in our own way, it’s right now.

Think about this. I tell people all the time you know we’ve been in the ag business forever. And I have honestly probably harvested a million acres of corn myself. I probably have planted hundreds of thousands of acres. When did you always, always lose grain? It’s when the harvest was plentiful. That’s when you lost grain. When there was almost nothing there and it was a bad year, of drought or whatever, you never lost anything. Because you’d have to get every single grain. When things are wonderful as they are right now, we’ve got to be careful. And we’ve got to be prudent. We’ll throw a lot of grain on the ground, and we’ll never touch it.

You know, I want to tell you just this. You hear me say this all the time. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat or Independent. Really what I’m really saying is just this, in my heart, I am dad-gum proud that I’m a Republican. But with all that, because I truly believe in very, very conservative values. I watch what’s going on on this national scene right now with our President, and what’s going on in DC, and for God’s sakes, there can’t be a rational human that thinks what’s going on is right.

There’s no way. So for that, I couldn’t be more proud to be a Republican but I would just warn you and just tell you just this. In this great state. There’s enough people on the outside wanting to throw rocks at us and they have forever. They beat us down. They’ve made us feel like “you should know your place.” In the race with Mississippi all the time. Who’s going to be dead last? And we’re not, we’re not that now.

Now there’s jealousy. Because now, all of a sudden, we’re the diamond in the rough they missed. Really be proud of who you are. Be proud that you may be a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent, for God’s sake, live and work together and try to help one another for the betterment of all in this great state.

Now, we got lots to talk about and I promise I will go as quickly as I possibly can go. There are so many exciting things. If we reflect back on the past just a second, and we were fair, we would say not many, many years ago we didn’t have anywhere to turn. You can say what you want, but I’m a business guy and I got there. And with all of that, you know I can even go back further and further and further. Imagine this and I’m not casting rocks like I just said I wouldn’t do but there was a time, believe it or not, that we cut a ribbon and celebrated a Taco Bell opening in downtown Charleston.

Think about what we’re doing today. Think about the stuff that’s going on today in this great state. You know, how did all this goodness happen? I believe with all my soul first and foremost it happened because of God above. I believe that with all in me. There’s no way that any of us could have been smart enough to have written or written all this down and figured all this out. He wants us to work hard, and he wants us to do our job. But I believe he is guiding this incredible state every single step of the way.

We had to change our image. We had to make simple moves on the board in education. I mean, who in the world came up with the idea of grading our schools A through F? Think about this marketing plan. We’re going to put them on a bell curve and we’ll have some “A’s” and we’re gonna have some “F’s” and in the middle, we’re gonna have a lot of C’s. So here’s what we can do. We can go out and tell the world “come to West Virginia, most of our schools are C’s.” How’s that gonna work? We got rid of it. Literally, at the end of the day, we got a lot still to do in education, but we made a commitment to move it to the front and let it be our centerpiece.

Everybody that comes, that wants to come to West Virginia says how are you schools and how are your roads? It’s just that simple all the time. We did a Roads to Prosperity program that created jobs and we were awarded and looked after and tried to appreciate our veterans. And then we let tourism explode right behind that. We diversified and we absolutely got on our way.

And then along came COVID and the cannon ball hit us right dead in the stomach. And we then could have done what has happened in the past and, really, what those on the outside would have expected us to do, go to 50 again, you maybe had a blip on the screen but go back to 50th again.

We didn’t do it, did we? We’ve dug in and shown exactly what our mettle is all about. And lo and behold, here we go. Now, I would say with all in me “Who would have thunk it.” Who would have ever thunk it.

Today in West Virginia, you’d have some processes that are so large, it’s unbelievable. You would have Fortune 500, Fortune 100, whatever, companies that are coming to West Virginia, over and over and over. The roads are getting repaired everywhere. We’re working on the water and sewer projects as fast as we possibly can. And they and we are that diamond. Now, get this, in 2022 alone, just think about this. We had 29 companies invest $6.19 billion in West Virginia. Now, absolutely get this. They brought us 3,300 new jobs and preserved 3,100 jobs. You know they gave us the opportunity to compete on a world stage. It is unbelievable the value of what we did and putting money aside in this impact development projects to bring more and more folks here. I’m gonna read a list of folks and I want you to stand please and let’s absolutely let this great body absolutely cheer and honor you.

Tonight I am creating a different, you know we have a Distinguished West Virginian. But I don’t know that we really have anything that is as honorable as a Distinguished West Virginian for our businesses. Tonight I am creating the Business Knights of West Virginia. And what I want to do is let these great folks when I read their names be our first inductees. Then I’ll reveal the name of a couple more folks that are coming to West Virginia. And then you know what I want to do? I want to go back and every single business in this state that contributes and helps in any way, I want them to, everyone be one of Business Knights of this state and we will send them a certificate they put it up on their wall. And then I’m going to ask of them one thing — is just as simple as this. I’m going to ask them to help all of us to absolutely perpetuate this great, great, great message of West Virginia.

Absolutely our new business knights and tonight our first inductees that I’m gonna go through you know from Berkshire Hathaway, Alicia Knapp, and if she can stand, I’m going to read through all of them and then we’re gonna clap for Alicia and all y’all. From Precision Castparts, Steve Wright, from Hope Gas, Morgan O’Brien, from FORM Energy, Mateo Jamarillo, from Mountaintop Beverage, Jeff Sokal, from Omnis, Richard Kingan, from Veloxint, Brian Joseph, from Pure Watercraft, Dennis Frioni. From Commercial Metals, I don’t have, I don’t have the name from Commercial Metals, from Papier-Mettler, and there’s not a representative from them, and from Klöckner, and there’s not a representative from them. But if you could join me, just think, just think, when every single bit of this absolutely is done, think what you have done. Think what you have created. Forevermore you have created our grandchildren’s jobs. That’s what you have done. You have created the fact that over and over and over Edith and Toby wanted to have a picnic and they want their grandkids to be here. And they’re in Charlotte or Denver or Atlanta and now, now they’re going to be in West Virginia. So please thank y’all so much. Thank you so, so much.

Well, just in the last little while, two more have come. TCL, which are based in India and is a chemical plant within Covestro plant that’s in Marshall County. They’re going to spend $150 million and create 50 jobs, making any ingredients that are found in food. The TCL Chairman, another new Knight of West Virginia, is with us right now. It’s Mr. Parthasarsthy, if you can really give him a great round of applause.

CMI2 is with us tonight. You know I don’t know if it’s CM One Two or CM12. But CMI2, tonight I’m proud to announce that the Civil Military Innovation Institute, CMI2, based in Morgantown has stood up as a one-of-a-kind military capability that is coming and operating and going to operate in Clay County. It is un-flat-believable what they’re going to provide, 50 jobs. CMI2 has been awarded $100 million in a new contract from the defense people and literally they’re promising more and more and more to come. And, and boy Zenovy Wowczuk is with us tonight. And if you could stand, please.

You know, there’s been, there’s been an awful lot. People never would have believed that West Virginia could have diversified. People never would have believed that you know, really a coal guy would welcome with open arms, you know, alternative sources or alternative energies. I’m a real believer. I’m a real believer that West Virginia needs to welcome all. There’s been many green and niche components to this admission initiative, but I want you to remember just one thing, and I know you will forevermore. Our coal, oil and gas folks today are supplying to West Virginia in this year or in years past, $891 million of severance income to this great state. They get up every day and get their dinner bucket and go. People are in 7000 feet underground and 32 inches of coal and can’t sit up all day long.

And they do it for their families. And they do it for this nation. They do it for this great state and they do it for all of us. Never, never will I, and never should you ever forget the great work that the coal miners have done, the great work the gas workers do, and the oil workers in this great state. Never turn your back on the greatness of our natural resources. Thank you so much.

We will kind of keep moving here, okay? In regard to our budget, we again are going to have a budget presented by me that is relatively flat. You see, I don’t believe in using the rainy day fund to bail me out. I want to mind the store. Absolutely. I want to do with Right. Absolutely. From the business guys’ standpoint.

You know, we have funded projects out of surplus, one-time projects, we have not built base hardly at all. We have really looked after the store and we expect, and we should, return on investment. With all that being said. Absolutely. Before I go further, I want to just say just this, but our retirees, we’ve gotten a lot of them, we haven’t really necessarily forgotten them, but today with inflation with what it’s at, imagine this. What I am proposing, two things, but for folks over 70 years of age that worked for us for 25 years, we have a minimum salary that would that they’ll receive of $1,000 really and truly, surely not much of nothing. And at the end of the day, I want to do a one-time bonus payment to them for $1,500. And I want you to work as hard as you can knowing that whatever you come up with I’ll be right. But many many times we get running really really fast. And we forget to please honor and help that wisdom.

Now, from the start, from the standpoint, I promised along the way, I promised, you know, that I would send a bill up in regard to the elimination of your car tax. You know, I said to Bill, I’ve done exactly what I promised, you know that I would just just, you gotta listen to me on this one. There’s lots and lots and lots of things we can do. That if we want at this moment in time to grow the state of West Virginia, we’re going to have to aggressively look at our personal income tax. It is an opportunity right now. Like none of us could ever imagine. This thing, we have the opportunity to do something that is monumental right at this moment.

Now with all that being said, All you gotta do is look at the publications, no matter what they may be, and they will all tell you the states that are on a pathway to getting rid of their personal income tax or really aggressively doing something, those states are winning the day. You got to know that you have to know that. A lot of people will say “well, we don’t have an ocean.” You know, but we don’t fry eggs on the street in the summertime. Literally we have been blessed with the four greatest seasons on the planet. Forever, the very best people who have the greatest location or within a rock throw two thirds of the population in this country. We abound in natural resources like crazy and all I would say to you and I know I will get in trouble saying this, who in the world wants to move to South Dakota? I mean, literally just a few days ago when it got as cold as it was here. If you’d had been in South Dakota, you’d have been a South Dakota-sickle. You would. So, at the end of the day, just think how we’re positioned.

You know, we’re positioned in the absolute sweetest spot that we could possibly be. Now way up in the back you’ve got our senate president, President Blair, and you’ve got our Speaker of the House, Speaker Hanshaw. And I’ve listened to them. I really have. They have said over and over and over that what we need to do in regard to the PIT is they wanted to think, either don’t do it or make a big splash. That’s all there is to it. Either don’t do it or make a big splash. So here comes me, cannonballing into the pool.

By God, I’ll make a big splash I’ll promise you that.

But tonight, I’m proposing our West Virginia tsunami that the world will hear in every single way. They’ll hear from every rooftop in every way. A tsunami that does nothing but benefit all everyone. Tonight I am proposing the biggest tax cut in the history of this state. I’m proposing a 50% reduction in our PIT across the board now.

This thing, just saying if we do this, it will take us three years to pull it off. But absolutely it is that aggressive pathway that will absolutely put unbelievable monies right back into all of our pockets. With all that being said, just think of this, for God’s sakes, and just think of just this. Right off the get-go, 30% The first year 10% The next year 10% The next year and then and then we step back and just see, with all that being said, think of how much if I were to walk into you and say I’m going to put a billion dollars back into our economy tomorrow and the people spend it. What will be the multiplier effect will be six times or 10 times tomorrow. You will become your own stimulus package with zero growth. Now has to be absolutely the word weighing all across the world and people will come. People really come. I have listened to the Senate. I have listened to the House.

And absolutely now, I hope and pray that we will move and move quickly to just show the people just how serious we are in West Virginia. And the fact that they, they have pulled the rope with us forever and ever and ever. You just think of the decades when they were in that race with Mississippi. And literally those folks absolutely today are hurting at the grocery store. Or the gas pump or whatever it may be. And we need to step up and help our folks and literally get on a pathway of doing something that’s unflappably. There’s other business and there’s other I budget items that I need to talk to you about.

Like I said, there’s a bunch of this and I’m gonna go as quickly as I can but it is great stuff. You know, our hospitals are the lifeblood of all of our communities are they not? And literally like it or not like it but you know when they take a PEIA patient in and everything a lot of times it becomes a burden rather than a plus. We need to help them out. And so tonight, you know, I’m wanting us to put $40 million into an adjustment for the local hospitals and absolutely help them in every way.

On top of all that, we have a school aid formula increase of $35 million that I want to put in, and I can say this for the first time, forevermore, we are beginning, we’re beginning to absolutely grow enrollment. The school aid the school aid situation is really designed for first grade aids to first grade teachers. And I think the exact amount is probably $37 million. And we’ll start there.

We need our kids to be better educated. There’s no question whatsoever about that. Absolute, you know, our Speaker, you know, because he campaigned this effort and he thought his effort was really good. And so do I.

The other thing I want to do is just this all of us in here, I mean, all of us can leave here and go to Wendy’s and hang out. We can. Babydog would love that.

And, and absolutely, but if you’ll just step back and just think about it, the one thing that we should absolutely do, especially with us doing how well we’re doing right now is put a stake in the sand to some way say we’re going to stop hunger in West Virginia.

We need to do it.

I gotta tell you this, and I want I want to offer up for us to do the million dollars again to our big food banks. But I want to do one step more. Absolutely right behind that. There was a fellow that was my uncle. And I never would have thought of this in a million years, but I just did the other day. He was 94 years old and died about six months ago, maybe eight months ago now. I did the eulogy. At the funeral. He was one of 10 kids on my mom’s side. At one time. Of course, they never had indoor plumbing at my grandparents house that I went to every time. His name was Posey Perry.

And literally he was such an unassuming guy, a Christian beyond belief. That’s all there is to it. Though most people looked up to Posey Perry, well he died. You know what he did, he worked in the coal mines his whole life. And then when he retired from the coal mines, he went to the food bank nearly every single solitary day.

I want us to set aside $10 million in the Posey Perry Emergency Food Bank fund for all of our pantries or whomever it may be, can draw on that. And if at the end of the year we ended up with $4 million, next year we’ll put six. If we drain it, the next year I would propose we put back 10. Absolutely. That’s what we need to do. We need to try with all in us to say, by God we’re not going to have hungry people in West Virginia today.

I’m proposing with our ARPA dollars that have been sitting there a long time. I’m proposing with those dollars that are a total of $677 million that we do with those dollars two things. We put $500 million of those dollars aside for the economic enhancement or impact fund. We have now, and you see fruits, you see them. I mean we’ve now gotten to the place in time in West Virginia where we’re competing. We’re competing with others.

You see we could never do it before, could we? We couldn’t ever, ever do it. But now we can compete. And now they want to come. And now we’ve got it going and those ARPA dollars to me, $500 million goes there. $177 million goes into a fund that Ann Urling has done marvelous work with all the water and sewer projects and we keep them going on and on and on. That’s my proposal in regard to that.

In regard to education, you know, like I said, we surely got rid of unnecessary testing and grades A through A through F stuff and all that. We now have programs that are out there like you know, grow your own pathway and we’re making some inroads here and there.

There’s a lot of good stuff going on in the classrooms. But absolutely, without any question we need to do one thing for absolute certain. We must ensure that schools have the responsibility to the students and the parents and not to a bunch of special interest groups. I believe that with all my soul. All of our parents deserve to know exactly what’s going on in a classroom. Without any question, our parents have always known what the best is for their kids.

Tonight I am proposing a bill to direct school systems to make all curriculum taught be available online where we can see every single thing that’s being put into our little kids’ heads.

We have to make our schools safer, don’t we?

We’ve got school safety officer programs and everything and we’re trying. We got to absolutely step up in any and every way we possibly can to try to absolutely be vigilant in every way. A tragedy like we’ve seen many, many times across this country could happen tomorrow in West Virginia. But absolutely with all in us, we have done everything that I know we can do. But we still need to do much more. To ensure that, absolutely, our kids when they come to school, they feel safe and they feel happy.

Absolutely to keep competing and to keep working on all of this. I am absolutely proposing also for the fourth time. Now many of you may think, well gosh, why do we need to keep doing this and everything.

But really when it really boils down to it. We’ve got to be able to compete. I am proposing for the fourth time, a 5% pay raise to every one of our state workers. We can afford to do this. And, absolutely I think it gives us the opportunity to attract better and better and better.

At the same time our PEIA fund is going to get upside down and get upside down real quick. I want to put $100 million back into our PEIA fund and give every state worker a 5% pay raise.

Let me tell you about HOPE Scholarship, just one second. HOPE Scholarship and thank you guys, thank you guys for standing up for HOPE Scholarship. HOPE Scholarship gives choice. We should have choice. There’s no question we should have choice. And as it continues to grow, why in the world do we need to hit these brick walls? You know what I want to do is bucket $15 million for the thousands of families that can absolutely select choice and take advantage of the HOPE Scholarship.

I want to put $75 million in higher ed to work on deferred maintenance. We’ve let it go too long. A building is about to fall down. Many many, many situations we’ve got to do something to help there.

A bunch of you, the majority undoubtedly here, a bunch of you as I we’re so thankful by the reversal of how Roe v Wade was overturned.

I promised you and you did your job. You did your job. You absolutely vetted and took your time. You absolutely finally brought me a bill I promised you. I promised you the very second you brought me a bill I’d sign it. I did exactly that. And I did that very proudly. And I would tell you and I don’t tell you this to grandstand, because I don’t believe in that in any way. As long as I’m your governor, I will stand with life, period.

Additionally, I’m proposing that we take care of the moms.

This could very well expand. But, I am proposing $1 million is going to go into the child pregnancy centers to make things better, and make things safer, and will help us in many ways there as well.

Ok, you know we came up with the nursing program, the Governor’s Nursing Workforce expansion Initiative. We put $48 million in it.

At one point in time during the COVID situation we had 2,000 beds in this state that we couldn’t staff. Think about it, 2,000 beds we couldn’t staff.

Probably we lost a bunch of people because of it. We had to do something. We started this initiative and it absolutely knocked it out of the park. It is absolutely amazing what’s going on.

And we’re absolutely on the threshold of being able to pump out nurses and bring so much more goodness to West Virginia it’s unbelievable.

I’ll be asking you that we take an additional $20 million to keep this super program really going. And, a special, special thanks to all the schools that are making all that happen. Thank you so much.

The EMS situation is the same thing. We put $10 million, actually $11 million dollars in it. We were, we were struggling like crazy to find an EMS. We couldn’t find anybody to go to work.

Think about this story. And I’ll read this very quickly. This is a story from a fella and his name is Darrin Crosier. He works in the Kanawha County EMT. Now think about it he says, I’m so thankful to be a part of something like this. To see tax dollars for the betterment of West Virginians. We do this because we love West Virginia and we love our communities. This training has helped me in so many ways. He gave me a career and great health benefits for myself, my wife and my three children. This has been very rewarding and it taught me that I could learn again.

Unbelievable.

Really and truly, I am proposing that we put $10 million into this fund and keep this thing going.

We have two wonderful people with us. We have our teacher of the year and our service personnel of the year Amber Nichols and Jessica Grose. They’re here with us and where are they? Way to go!

They are from Eastwood Elementary in Morgantown and Hodgesville Elementary in Upshur County.

I gotta say something about this little lady sitting over here. Our First Lady started Communities in Schools. We started really in three counties: Berkeley, McDowell, Wyoming counties. It started out in nine schools and had 4,000 kids. Think about it. Today, they’re in 38 counties, 208 schools and they are touching 91,000 kids.

Now, I’m telling you this and then you could believe it or not believe it. I don’t blow smoke at anybody. Not at my daughter, not at my wife, not at you, not at anybody. I don’t have time to do it. All I know to do is tell the truth as best I can possibly do it. I’m in the schools a lot. And I’m in the schools a lot. I coach and I’m proud of it.

I’ve been in the schools forevermore, and I’m telling you, and you can say what you want. I’ve never seen a program that works any better. It is unbelievable. You know, I want to read this just very quickly but a 17 year old from Wheeling Park. This is her first year, you know. This is the first year of the program in Ohio County. The site coordinator noticed some irregular type things going on with this kid. Found out this kid was taking care of her granddad, a veteran. Literally, they got involved from the, from the community side. This is exactly what Communities in Schools does. They got involved and they were able to get the veteran benefits and they were able to help the kid and the kid is doing really, really, really, really well.

One other thing they have done is they absolutely started this initiative with therapy dogs. I gotta tell you this. Tonight there’s a lady with us, her name is Sarah Linger. She is the site coordinator for Lewis County High School. She has with her one of the therapy dogs and Babydog is majorly jealous right now. Sarah if you would stand.

Let me just read this to you for just one second.

Jasper does an outstanding job with students and with their emotions. He goes on to say once a student was very worked up and struggling. After spending a few minutes with Jasper, and we all know that dogs will do this. Absolutely, the student calmed down and the student is doing better every day in school. Now, get this. At Pineville Elementary School, there’s a dog there and its name is River. There is a student there that is severely handicapped and for all practical purposes non-verbal.

Now, think about it.

And for most of this I’m gonna have to go real slow, because I’ll get big tears in my eyes about this because, honest to Pete, I love kids.

When asked, “How did you like River?” The student that was partially, or for all practical purposes nonverbal. The student exclaimed, “Best day ever!”

Kathy, thanks and all I can say is just keep it up.

We got lots and lots and lots more dogs that are growing. And, you know these dogs are expensive and everything. But there’s lots of good stuff.

We want all 55 counties. And I think Kathy is on a pathway that’s gonna happen and happen really soon, probably within this year. So lots of good stuff there.

Let me jump to something that you know I’ve talked about before and it’s drugs.

We all know. It can cannibalize us. We have made a lot of inroads. But we absolutely know we still have lots to do. I can’t say this anymore bluntly, because I don’t know how to say it.

If you look at what’s going on at our Southern border of this country, and you just think, you just think why are we tolerating this? Why in the world are we continuing to allow drugs to flow all across this great country? And thousands and thousands and thousands die.

Why are we doing that? I just plain don’t get it.

But in West Virginia, just the other day, we had you know through Homeland Security or some other agency, I don’t know exactly what it was. They seized some fentanyl and that, just that small amount, it was like six ounces. It would have been enough for a lethal dose for 90,000 people in West Virginia.

I don’t know why in the world we continue on. It’s a big problem.

We should absolutely continue to support and help and to try to help in every way our programs like Jobs and Hope or whatever it may be. That we should absolutely know we’ve got to all be in this.

Every last one of us has been touched by a terrible situation with drugs.

It hurts our state. It hurts our employment. It hurts us in every way. And I wish to God above we had some real live help, you know, from DC, in regard to this.

In regard to corrections, you know, we have many, many vacancies.

You know, last the last go round you came really close on locality pay.

Some of our bordering counties we have a 70% vacancy.

You got to address that. Please address the locality pay. Because we have absolutely, we have an obligation to take care of our prisoners. And we’re going to awaken to something not very good there if we don’t watch out.

DHHR, a hot button right now. That’s all there is to it. You know you asked me to make it better. And absolutely I have brought in a team like you can’t imagine. I can go into all kinds of specifics with you tonight.

But, I can tell you, if you believe in what we did in COVID with Dr. Marsh and General Hoyer and literally now Dr. Coben. If you believe that, there’s lots that we got to do, I want to listen to every one of your ideas. I want them to listen to your ideas. We all can do one thing. If we will do it. We can make it better. It didn’t get in this mess over the last couple of years. This is a culmination of a problem that’s been there many, many, many, many decades.

We can make it better. We need to listen to your ideas. You need to listen to ours. You need to absolutely bounce ideas off of Dr. Marsh and General Hoyer and Jeff Coben. Absolutely, I am as open minded as one could ever be. I’ve got to tell you this though. Welch Hospital in McDowell County.

And, many of you probably have never been to Welch Hospital. I’ve been there many times. Welch Hospital is kind of in an area of the world that got left way, way, way behind. If I’m right about this McDowell County at one time had about 110,000 people in it. And now they got less than 10,000.

That hospital and everything has surely been tough going for everybody. That’s all there is to it. It’s been a drain on the state. It’s been a drain on the county. It’s been a drain in many, many directions.

Through the great work, again, of Clay Marsh, General Hoyer, Jeff Coben. They have now today, today. The McDowell County Commission took over the Welch Hospital and WVU is going to take over the Welch Hospital and bring to the coalfields down there absolutely a shining light. We got it off our backs and this is an absolute accomplishment by those guys. That could not have happened without those guys. Please give them a big round of applause because they’ve worked really hard.

Let me tell you this. We have with us tonight one of our CPS workers. Her name is Aimee Stevens.

Aimee’s been with DHHR for eight years now. You got a story that’s really neat. She walked in. She was a single mom. Walked into DHHR probably to sign up for benefits and found out the people that she was working with there, she liked them and everything was all good. And lo and behold, one thing led to another, and then all of a sudden she got off in trying to branch out into a new career of Social Work. She became one of our CPS workers.

And she’s been at it for eight years. And Jeff Pack who was right with you not many years ago, oversees that for us. And Jeff reports that she is outstanding, beyond belief. So where’s Aimee, if she’s here with us if she is staying? Right there she is. Please give her a great round of applause.

Okay, we’ve still got lots to do. There’s no question whatsoever. These are just isolated things and there’s so much to do. Please remember what I said about the wisdom. Remember what I said about respect, literally, let’s work together with all of our ideas, and we’ll solve it. We’ll solve it or we’ll make it a heck of a lot better.

Now, I would say just this. In this state we’ve got plus or minus 1,000 foster kids don’t we. And a bunch of them don’t have a home. We can go to Wendy’s. And, absolutely Babydog can too.And we’ve got surpluses that are off the chart.

I’m challenging you right now. Find a way. Find a way to incentivize families to give these children a chance. A chance. They need it literally. I tell people all the time.

If you’re not doing this, you should. Take time to get involved in some way in trying to help a kid.

The giver is always the winner. You will not believe what it will do in transforming your life.

These people need us, especially these wonderful kids.

Now if I could switch real quickly, to just this, our National Guard. Think about this. 250 in 2022 were overseas. 550 worked in the COVID response. 350 worked at 30 different hospitals. 300 worked in corrections for God’s sakes a living they were even fighting fires. And then of all things they took helicopters when Andy Beshear called me and said “will you come and help?” I said you’re dadgum right we’ll come. We’ll bring the best of the best and they went there and saved people’s lives and there’s terrible floods in Kentucky.

Please give our great National Guard an incredible round of applause.

I’m gonna get you up again right now. I’m sorry, but not really.

Our veterans. And you just think what they’ve given us. And we lost an absolute American hero beyond belief. Not long ago in Woody Williams, for those of you who didn’t have the opportunity to be with him, you really missed something. He was un-flat believable. That’s all there is to it.

He could have sat here right here tonight and delivered this ten times better than I could.

Absolutely. Somebody that believed in his heart. No, the Medal of Honor recipient. Absolutely somebody that believed in his heart to continue to do more and more and more for our Gold Star families. And, it continues on right now.

And tonight, Tracy Ross, what his daughter and Brian Casey, Woody’s grandson are with us and I don’t know where they are either. Please, American hero, a hero beyond belief,

Okay, we’re starting a program with not too much money. I think $500,000 and we’ll start with 100 and see where it takes us.

We’re starting a program called Welcome Home program. We’re gonna have a $5,000 incentive to any veteran that wants to move back into West Virginia.

Really, with what all is going on right now. If we can get this VIP thing done, we’re going to get every veteran that wants to come. And we will get veterans beyond belief and take absolutely their expertise and knowledge and make us all better.

So this program is absolutely that I am proposing that we do this program one time and see what the results are. And then I hope and pray that we’ll be able to expand it. When you stand this time, stretch just a little bit, because this is the seventh inning and I’m winding down..

Delegate Hornbuckle came to me the other day and Dr. Allen Letton. They want to do something at Marshall University and again, the size of the magnitude of this compared to all that’s going on. Surely we’ve got to step up in the African American community and try to help what in the world is wrong with us to not step up? They want a million dollars to go to Marshall University to be able to start the Center for Economic and Community Development in the African American community of Appalachia.

I don’t, I don’t know if they are with us. Well, I know Sean is somewhere, but nevertheless, Sean, if you’d stand we’ll give you a great big round of applause

Now. I gotta talk just about tourism and roads for just a second.

I mean, literally, whatever money you have. I don’t care what it is. Put it in tourism.

It doesn’t matter what it is. Whatever money you got, put it in tourism. You will instantaneously get a return on that money like you can’t imagine that’s all there is to it. It’s happening everywhere all around us. Imagine these numbers. Imagine them. Last year travelers in West Virginia spent $5 billion. $5 billion travel guides all over the place. They’re saying come to West Virginia. There’s so much goodness going on in our parks and everywhere else under the sun. I could go on forever and ever in a day. You know, we spent $150 million upgrading our parks and you can’t even get a place in our park because we’re all sold out for all practical purposes.

Shows all they make the world see just how good we really are. You remember, back in the beginning I told you about image. It is so, so important.

Literally we know how good we are. But the world didn’t know.

And they absolutely know now. They’re getting it.

I want to talk just a second about roads.

Imagine this in 2022. We did 115,745 miles of work.

Think about that. Think about it. In the last four years we’ve done 364,500 miles of work in West Virginia.

Roads got in really bad shape.

You say what you want but not very many years back. I said for God’s sakes a livin and we can’t even go to the convenience store because we tear a car all the pieces go into the convenience store. And today is saying the Nitro World War One Memorial Bridge is on its way. The Beckley Bluestone travel plazas are underway. All the wheeling bridges are for all practical purposes done. The streets in Wheeling are getting done. The Coalfield expressway is making unbelievable inroads. Quarter H is absolutely on a path to be done.

In many, many, many, many more.

There’s lots and lots and lots of goodness in many places.

There’s a fund to IIJA. I commend Harold Board and Jimmy Wriston for tapping into this. Harold did something that was first in the nation, to deploy the IIJA funding for oil and gas plug in 25 million and abandoned mine lands for 145 million. Harold is not with us tonight. But you can give him a big round of applause too.

Jimmy is watching after this and taking full advantage of the infrastructure investment and jobs act and there will be billions, billions of dollars flowing into West Virginia.

Now we’re on the homestretch now. You won’t have to listen to me very much longer.

The Pandemic was really tough, wasn’t it? No playbook. Through all that, and everything. Our labs and I’m hoping and praying that we do this because no governor should face this again.

Our labs have been on a burner but then shoved to the back burner and shoved to the back burner and shoved to the back burner over and over. Big ticket item. Very, very big ticket item.

If there’s ever a time that we can build a new consolidated lab and bring them all under one roof, and absolutely move into the century that we should be instead of the dark ages, we can do it now.

I’ll never forget Vernon Criss. Just the other day he told me, he said, You know, our labs, in many ways reminded him of having two Dixie Cups and a string, to be able to communicate. Absolutely our labs can get us in a lot, a lot, a lot of trouble, and we need great labs to be able to respond.

The price tag to put them all together. And that’s the state police forensic crime units. The Department of Agriculture, DHHR, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, DEP and Weights and Measures, the price tag, from what I know is $250 million.

I’m proposing that we quit kicking this down the road and put $125 million in this year $125 million next year out of surplus and get it done.

From a standpoint of broadband I want to just tell you just this, we announced a billion dollar program with the Senate with the house with all of y’all.

The billion dollar program on broadband wanted to test 200,000 homes and new businesses for businesses rather I’m proud to announce now we spent $548 million dollars of that total investment so far, where we’re halfway home. I know there’s many, many, many, many of those dollars are still are hooking up people and everything because they’re not done. But absolutely I do believe by the time that I leave. We will have absolutely passed the billion dollars and that’s good stuff.

Now, I’m gonna end with you on just this note. I am going to end with you that your responsibilities and my responsibility is a daunting task. There’s no question. I mean it when I tell you I love you with all my heart.

Now I’ll argue with you, but I’ll be respectful to you in any way and in every way I possibly can be.

You have not only a daunting task, but you have a daunting opportunity right now, like nobody’s business.

You got to listen and you listen to me. You got to trust me on this.

The one thing I’ve done is I’ve run many, many, many businesses. I have created thousands and thousands of jobs. I can tell you opportunity flashes in your face. And if you don’t grab it. That door closes. It’s just as simple as that.

I would always remember without any doubt, you’re here for Toby and Edith. You are. All of you are I am. In every way. You’re here for our children. You’re here for our seniors. You’re here for our new and old residents and our new and old businesses as well.

You are here for all the generations to come. I mean this so profoundly I couldn’t possibly say it any better than just this.

God bless each and every one of you for all you do, You give. You’re away from your families. You’re here 60 days. You work all the time. What you’re compensated is next to nothing, for what you give.

And you should be loved and you should be appreciated for it.

I would say an ending for all of us. God bless this incredible state of West Virginia. It is so wonderful. It is off the chart. And, God bless this incredible country.

Thank you so much for having me. And God bless all of you.

Thank you.

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