Showboating: Justice makes promise he can’t back up

Ordinary citizens cannot simply hope and wish there will be more money at their disposal next year, and then make promises in the present based on that imaginary figure.

Tuesday evening, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice did exactly that, when he told striking public school personnel he was raising his revenue estimate for next year from $4.716 billion to $4.774 billion, to cover the 5-percent raise he promised them, in hope they will return to work this morning.

Justice handed teachers a “trust me,” and offered guarantees he does not actually have the power to back up. Revenue will be higher for several reasons, he said: tax reform at the federal level and spending involved in the $1.6 billion road bond approved last year by voters; the possibility of a severance tax increase.

One wonders where that extra money was in discussions that led legislators to believe the absolute best they could do for teachers was the set of raises they had already laid on the table.

Justice’s timing was absurd, as well. He gave lawmakers ONE day, to have his proposals turned into legislation that is read three times in both houses if it was to make it to his desk. That is simply reckless — though surely he knew that. Lawmakers who have already struggled through the consequences of last year’s missed budget estimates are less likely to simply take Justice’s word for it.

If Justice is genuine in his desire to give public school personnel a pay raise, and he truly believes there will be money available to do so, he should have called for a special session to begin immediately after the regular session in which he could give lawmakers time to get this right. It could have also served as the beginning of their work to fix concerns with the Public Employee Insurance Agency.

Without such a session, Justice’s attempt at becoming the hero may amount to little more than his typical showboating. Public school personnel — and the rest of the voters — will likely be happy to show him, they have had enough.

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