CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) Updated: 1/9/2019
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice says there have been plenty of ideas to address the state's addiction crisis.
But he believes a comprehensive program-one called "Jim's Dream"-is the answer.
It's aimed at treatment and training to return addicts to the state's workforce, and-if successful at doing so-they can have their misdemeanor offenses removed from their court records.
"Why don't we absolutely, some way, somehow, let our people who are struggling on drugs beyond belief, go get treatment and get treatment for free, provided they come out of treatment and get some level of training, and provided they'll get constant drug tests," the governor said in appealing to the legislature in his State of the State address Wednesday night. "Why don't we train our workforce and give those people some hope."
He's proposing using money from the state's recent tax revenue surplus collections to help fund the program.
As expected, the governor also supports eliminating Social Security and business inventory taxes, additional raises for teachers and state employees, and a middle-level appeals court system.
Justice is also calling for immediate changes in the state's education system.
"We've got to improve our math scores," he told legislators. "We've got to do something about absenteeism. And we've got to make West Virginia the first state to offer computer science classes in every high school in our state."
The legislature will consider the governor's proposals-along with numerous bills of its own-during the 60-day session set to end March 9.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is proposing the elimination of a state tax on Social Security benefits but offering significant funding increases for substance abuse, social services and tourism in the next fiscal year.
Justice gave his third State of the State address Wednesday night as revenue figures continue to improve two years after the state was mired in a budget crisis. Figures released Tuesday showed revenue collections were $186 million ahead of estimates at current fiscal year's midpoint.
If passed, eliminating the Social Security tax would mean a $50 million reduction in revenue collected.
The budget includes an additional $25 million for substance abuse programs, $20 million each for social services and state building maintenance and $14 million more for tourism.
Justice also is proposing another 5 percent pay increase for teachers and other state employees.
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