West Virginia Governor Jim Justice speaks about business trajectory during his fourth State of the State Address in the House Chambers at the State Capitol in Charleston on Jan. 8.

For those of you wondering where Gov. Jim Justice was hiding while some imposter, a stunt double, delivered the annual State of the State address, we can assure you that the guy at the podium Wednesday night was, in fact, our governor – minus any big ideas on how to move the state forward.

This was a leader and coal baron cowed by the present and fearful of the future, not the daring visionary of his past.

Justice is a successful and wealthy businessman first and foremost. We’re guessing that he can read the tea leaves – and the economic indicators. In a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, 97 percent of the country’s Corporate Financial Officers are predicting an economic downturn or, worse, recession before ballots are cast in November. And, according to the state’s economic experts at West Virginia University, no amount of wishing and hoping – or denial – is going to return coal to its former economic glory. In fact, predictions are for a continued slide in production.

And while Justice does not claim to be a politician, he certainly knows that bad economies are not good for incumbents running for reelection.

In short, the guy grading the condition of our state the other night was not so much worried about you, regardless of what he said. He was more concerned about himself and his own fortunes.

Yes, it was Jim Justice delivering the speech. The giveaway? The props. This time around there was a thunderbolt graphic, a rocket ship drawing, a safety vest, a tackle box and a hatchet. No, there was no white board, no cheerleaders or basketball team. Nor was there a platter of dung. Thankfully.

The governor told us we were transitioning from a rocket ride of economic prosperity to a lightning bolt – a jagged journey where the climb skyward would not be a straight and unobstructed moonshot.

But what went missing in the governor’s address were the big dreams of a marketer-in-chief who could point to an imaginative way towards a more diverse and satisfying economy. Where was our wild and wonderful governor? Where was this year’s multi-billion dollar roads program – only for education? In fighting the opioid drug crisis? In building clean water systems? In boosting tourism?

This time, he was just flat out making stuff up and stashing away cash for a rainy day. Why would he do that? Dark clouds on the horizon, perhaps?

As detailed in a front page story in (the Friday edition of The Register-Herald), the governor talked – all excited like – about how Wyoming-based Ramaco Carbon would be opening a research facility in West Virginia focused on turning coal to carbon fiber. That much appears true.

Then he said the facility would call WVU home.

Well, that is not true. Maybe he just got his locations mixed up.

But then he said Ramaco was looking at the possibility of bringing one of these plants to southern West Virginia.

Believe that? Anyone?

The governor’s address was a clumsy tip of the cap to a lot of minor concerns.

His ideas were uninspired, tired props of the past.

Where was the coach’s enthusiasm for pulling us together and pointing us towards a common goal, one that improves our communities and the general welfare of all?

At this point in time, we know what we need in this state and it is an unwavering focus on and sizable investment in education, the opioid crisis, our health and taking care of our children – in mind and body. That is where the state’s future rests.

But the governor’s address left those and other very important issues for another day – another rainy day – in West Virginia.

— The Register-Herald

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