West Virginia's Only Billionaire Calls for End to Negativism

Jim Justice wants the people of West Virginia to forget their poverty and contaminated water and blown off mountains, to forget that Justice got a $25 million tax break while the legislature struggled to pass a $1.50 increase in the minimum wage.
03/18/2014 07:44 pm ET Updated May 18, 2014

Jim Justice, West Virginia's only billionaire, and owner of the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulfur Springs -- doesn't like it when the rabble go "negative."

In particular, he doesn't like the "negativism" being directed at the $25 million tax break that his lobbyist -- Democratic Party chairman Larry Puccio -- rammed through the last days of the legislative session in Charleston for the Greenbrier's new medical facility.

"At the end of the day, I really hate for anyone to dwell on any level of negativism,"
Justice told radio talk show host Hoppy Kercheval.

Justice wants the people of West Virginia to forget their poverty and contaminated water and blown off mountains, to forget that Justice got a $25 million tax break while the legislature struggled to pass a $1.50 increase in the minimum wage, and instead to focus on the Greenbrier's announcement that it will be hosting the NFL's New Orleans Saints for a couple of weeks at the end of the summer.

"This is such a positive thing," Justice said, referring to the $20 million he'll be spending to build a practice facility for the Saints in West Virginia. "At the end of the day, all anyone should be focused on is just this. It's creating jobs. It's promoting tourism. It's promoting hope in West Virginia. It's doing things that we need so badly and that we deserve."

Don't look behind the curtain at the billionaire manipulating the state legislature for the tax breaks.

"At the end of the day, our governor, the president of the Senate, President Kessler, the speaker of the house, Speaker Miley, the legislature, they deserve so much credit, because they are visionaries," Justice said about the men and women in Charleston who carried water for Justice, Puccio and Greenbrier to guarantee the $25 million in tax breaks that were targeted exclusively for the medical facility at the Greenbrier.

"They are visionaries about promoting these tourism jobs," Justice said. "Just think about this Hoppy. Creating a job is so wonderful. But think about the multiplier effect of dollars when you create a tourism job. Why is that we here in West Virginia have to drive four or eight hours or whatever and then take our dollars somewhere else? Just think about this NFL training camp. West Virginians can go to this without driving all over the world and the admission price is zero. This is the kind of stuff West Virginia needs."

Not a restoration of the minimum wage to keep up with 1968 wages adjusted for inflation. Not protection from fracking wastes that will now, thanks to that same legislature, be dumped into local landfills instead of in the backyards of the fracking companies. Not protection from contaminated water.

West Virginia needs an NFL training camp.

And a PGA tournament.

But it would be too "negative" to focus on the needs of the people of West Virginia. So instead, Justice wants to focus on bringing the Saints training facility to West Virginia. And on the PGA golf tournament he hosts at the Greenbrier.

"This is not for me," Justice said. "This is not for me in any way. People need to get off of me. This is ridiculous. This tourism development act is for West Virginia. It is for jobs. Tourism is for us. For crying out loud, anyone who knows me knows that there is no living human who loves our state more than I do and you know that. You know that."

Wait a second? The $25 million tax break wasn't for you, Jim Justice? Who was it for then if it wasn't just for you? It was written into the law. It was just for a medical facility at the Greenbrier. Who else could that be for?

Kercheval, who admitted that the radio company he works for has a commercial interest in the PGA event that Justice sponsors, didn't even mention the $25 million tax break.

Instead, he lavished praise on Justice.

"The PGA Tour event is the premier sports event in West Virginia and it wouldn't have happened and the Greenbrier would not be like what it is today without what you have done," Kercheval said to Justice. "And that is a statement of fact. I'm not saying that because you and I are friends. But if you hadn't bought the Greenbrier, if you had not opened up your checkbook, those things would not have happened. That's just a fact."

"It is a fact," Justice said. "And here's another fact. Every year that golf tournament costs me $10 million. Everybody says to me -- why do you do this? And I say -- it makes the average West Virginian feel a little bit more proud of himself to be a West Virginian. And two, it puts the spotlight of the world all on us. It let's the world see how good we really are. At the end of the day, that's what I want. I want greatness for our state. Absolute greatness. The Governor, the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, all those legislators, they want greatness too. We are headed down the right path here. There is no one who is going to put a negative thought in my mind. This is all positive. This is great stuff for our state."

Remember peeps, nothing negative. Don't talk about the $25 million tax break that Puccio got for Justice. Don't talk about the blown off mountaintops. Or the fracking wastes. Or the poverty in the state. Let's focus on the PGA and the NFL!

"Sometimes in West Virginia we have a hostility toward wealth," Kercheval said. "But without some people spending a lot of their own money these things don't happen. We can continue that discussion that debate. The ROI (return on investment) on NFL training camp and the PGA tour are pretty good."

"I'm defensive about this because we are owned and operated by John Raese," Kercheval said. "We have a real angst about people with wealth. Maybe it's envy. Maybe we don't trust them. Maybe it's because they throw their money around."

Maybe it's because they have the audacity to say -- "it's not about me" -- less than a week after it was just about them in the legislature.