Gov. Justice says state taxes paid in full

Gov. Jim Justice, left, is joined by Department of Revenue and Department of Environmental Protection officials in announcing that his company’s state tax obligations have been paid. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice has been asked multiple times by Republicans, Democrats and the press whether he has paid the taxes owed by his companies in West Virginia.

During a Monday afternoon press conference, Justice was able to provide an answer to that question.

“Today is a really neat day for me,” Justice said. “I think we can put to bed once and for all this tax issues that has been looming around forevermore.”

Flanked by officials with the state’s Department of Revenue and Department of Environmental Protection, Justice said taxes owed to the state by his companies have been paid and all state and county tax obligations fulfilled.

Justice and revenue officials wouldn’t say how much was paid to the state or whether the companies and tax officials settled for a lower amount. Justice said his son Jay negotiated with the state, and tax officials said state code prohibited them from giving out the amount paid.

“I’ve told you for months and months that any obligation I wouldn’t walk away from,” Justice said.

“I was informed by our deputy tax commissioner today…that all taxes owed by the companies operated by Jay Justice have been fully resolved to the satisfaction of the state tax commissioner,” said David Hardy, secretary of the Department of Revenue.

Hardy said the Tax Department verified receipt of all funds owed by 1:30 p.m. Monday. All the tax liens filed in various counties should be removed in the next two days.

Allen Prunty, deputy secretary of revenue and general counsel, worked as a go-between for the state Tax Department and Jay Justice.

“I can say without any qualification that Jay Justice, his attorneys and some of the executives at his company were totally cooperative, completely transparent,” Prunty said. “It just took a while to work through all this because it’s a complicated situation.”

According to a report from National Public Radio while he was still running for governor, Justice owed more than $15 million in taxes across six states, with West Virginia being owed $4.71 million in October 2016.

Justice blamed the bulk of his company’s tax woes on his sale and re-purchase of coal mining interests from Russian company Mechel. Mechel purchased Justice’s coal interests for $568 million in 2009 but purchased back one of those interests — Bluestone — for $5 million, with Mechel leaving behind tax liabilities that Justice’s companies took on.

“Along the way, someone would yell at you ‘why don’t you pay your taxes,'” Justice said. “It was tough, because I knew already that I had paid Russian taxes.”

Justice also owes back taxes in Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, and Alabama. He said that he is working on similar deals with those states to satisfy his tax debt.

“If you bide your time and wait, you’ll see the same outcome there as well,” Justice said.

Only two of Justice’s companies are in blind trusts — tools used to protect against conflicts of interest and protect the governor from enriching his businesses. His daughter Jill runs the Greenbrier Resort, while Jay runs the coal and agricultural companies in Justice’s portfolio.

Justice and revenue officials made it clear they did not interact or have any conversations regarding clearing the tax debt, leaving those discussions between Jay and the state Tax Department.