CHARLESTON —Declaring “It’s time for West Virginia to claim its place,” Jim Justice was sworn in as West Virginia’s 36th governor Monday 

Justice covered several topics in his inaugural address, including boosting tourism, addressing the state’s growing deficit, referencing cutting “unnecessary agencies” in the state’s education system, and the importance of keeping the younger generation within the state’s borders.

“West Virginia has been at the bad end of a lot of jokes and I don’t like it” Justice said. “I don’t like that we are 50th in everything. The reason is simple. I can’t stand how good we are and how troubled we are and how many people are hurting.”

Monday’s ceremony marked Justice publicly taking the oath of office; at midnight he took the oath of office in a small private ceremony at The Greenbrier.

Rain held off for the duration of the ceremony with sunlight breaking through the clouds and 59 degree weather greeting attendees who gathered on the South steps of the Capitol.

Justice even referenced the weather at the beginning of his address, joking “How could we have weather like this on this day?

Outgoing Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin addressed the crowd, touting accomplishments in his administration, and also saying he looks forward to Justice’s leadership.

“Today, as we look to the future, I can think of no better person than Jim Justice to take the reins to build on the progress we’ve made and continue to move West Virginia ahead,” Tomblin said.

Tomblin said Justice has a “big sky vision” for West Virginia, citing the incoming governor’s experience as a businessman, saying Justice is committed to reaching that vision.

“Our state is at a critical crossroads with many challenges and also many opportunities,” Tomblin said. “Justice has the dedication, tenacity and passion to realize that bright future that is ahead for West Virginia.”

Justice credited four things for his accomplishments: God, his family, his coworkers and his kids. He also gave a nod to Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead, saying he wants to get together and “make greatness work,” getting past labels of political parties.

“I want absolutely nothing,” he said. “Nothing. I don’t want a thing for me or my family. All I want is goodness for this incredible state and its incredible people.”

Justice often joked before talking about his vision for various topics as well as his vision of his time in office.

“I want to be Jimmy because Jimmy is always nice,” Justice joked. “I can be Jim. Jim will always be serious. I really don’t want to see James.”

He also shared anecdotes, taking out a tacklebox and a hatchet and telling the story of a woman from Jessie. He said the woman didn't know him and he ended up buying each item for $100 each. The woman told him that, "you don't know how much we are hurting down here." 

Justice discussed West Virginia’s growing deficit. Collections for the general revenue fund in December were $6.7 million below estimates; year-to-date, the state is nearly $100 million behind estimates. Previous Department of Revenue Secretary Robert Kiss said that although numbers were behind in December, the state is still on track to have a balanced budget for the 2017 fiscal year with measures put in place by Tomblin.

Previously, Kiss said that if the budget stays where it has been the last couple of years, the revenue shortfall in the 2018 fiscal year could be in the neighborhood of $400 million.

Tomblin presented his balanced budget during his farewell address last Wednesday for the 2018 fiscal year, calling for a 1 percent tax increase to consumer sales tax.

Justice said there is no question that the state needs to raise revenue.

“There’s no question there is waste,” he said. “There is no question we have to do something about that but we have to raise revenue. We’ve got to find a way to raise revenue. We cannot continue to just kick the can down the road and drain more out of our Rainy Day Fund.”

He talked about having a highway bond that would have a multiplier after 15 to 20 years that would turn into about $4.5 billion that he would want to sell to Goldman Sachs. He said it may only come back at $1.4 billion, which he would want to take to invest into highway matching funds.

Justice also talked about "tiering" severance tax for coal and gas. He also mentioned a goal of bringing furniture manufacturing back to the state along with manufacturing jobs.

“We don’t need to be a third world country that resources leave us and we’re standing there holding the bag,” he said. “We’ve proven that. We have got to solve the riddle.”

He also mentioned focusing on tourism and having a niche crop to market for West Virginia.

“Tourism will explode. It’s right at our fingertips,” he said referencing the Michigan ads on TV. “All we have to do is market ourselves.”

Justice also referenced an education plan he wants to present immediately for people to review.

“There’s going to be elimination of a bunch of unnecessary agencies,” he said. “We are going to look at education in a way it hasn’t been looked at for a long time.”

He said teachers are underpaid and the state has to do something about it. He also said the state needs to focus more on students getting better grades than schools, referencing the A-F rating on schools.

“We’ve got to listen to people on the ground instead of administering from Charleston,” he said. “We’ve proven to be last.”

Justice said he also wants to address the state’s drug problem. Recent CDC Wonder data shows that West Virginia still leads the nation in overdose deaths at a rate of 39.3 per 100,000 residents, more than double the national average of 16.3 per 100,000 residents.

“We have a drug epidemic that is absolutely cannibalizing us,” Justice said. “Whatever we have to do to stop it, we should. If we don’t, then we’re gone.”

Justice also talked about the outmigration of the younger generation.

The U.S. Census shows that only two counties, Greenbrier and Monroe, out of 14 comprising the southern region saw a slight increase in population. Dozen of others saw significant declines.

The U.S. Census showed that more people left West Virginia than any other state in 2015, according to media reports.

“I love to see young people at work,” he said. “I hate it to my soul to see Grandma Edith that wants to have a picnic this Sunday and can’t have it because she wants her grandkids to be there and they’re in Charlotte, Denver, or Atlanta because they had to leave to get a job. We need to provide a place for young people who want to stay to have an opportunity to stay.”

Justice’s final remarks were an encouragement to action, saying “We can do it. West Virginia can do it.”

“It’s time for West Virginia to claim its place,” he said.

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West Virginia’s constitutional officers also were sworn in Monday – Mac Warner as secretary of state, Patrick Morrisey as attorney general, John Perdue as treasurer, J.B. McCuskey as auditor and Kent Leonhardt as commissioner of Agriculture.

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Beth Walker also took the ceremonial oath.

Former governors Gaston Caperton and Bob Wise attended Monday’s ceremony. Also in attendance were Congressmen David McKinley and Evan Jenkins and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin.

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