On February 10, 2021, Governor Jim Justice gave his West Virginia State of the State Address. Governor Justice discussed state budget planning, the COVID-19 pandemic, and future developments, including building the first Hyperloop Certification Center. Governor Justice’s theme throughout the address was improving the image of West Virginia now and in the future.
Governor Justice announced that West Virginia ended 2020 with a $464 million cash surplus. Notably, Governor Justice asked lawmakers to completely repeal the state’s income tax. His plan would repeal the state’s income tax in increments. The proposed initial step would be to lower the highest earners’ income tax by 1/3 and lower the lower earners’ income tax by 1/2. To accomplish this without losing revenue, Governor Justice suggested increasing West Virginia’s sales tax on cigarettes and soda by 1.5%. Governor Justice also suggested tiering the severance taxes on coal, oil, and gas, and implementing a “wealth” or “luxury” tax. Governor Justice also mentioned the possibility of taxing professional services.
Governor Justice honored West Virginia’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that the state is currently ranked number one in the country for issuing vaccinations. Noting a need to grow the population, Governor Justice encouraged lawmakers to take action to entice businesses to come to West Virginia.
Governor Justice then announced the building of the Hyperloop Certification Center in Tucker County, West Virginia. Governor Justice also unveiled a plan to bring DST Innovations to West Virginia, bringing an additional 1,000 new jobs and 500 additional employee positions at the North Central Airport.
Looking toward the future, Governor Justice emphasized the need for state-wide broadband and a continuation of the fight against the opioid epidemic. Governor Justice concluded the State of the State by explaining his vision that West Virginia would begin to lead the nation in technology, economic stability, and tourism.