The richest man in West Virginia just got his way with the GOP tax reform bill.
Current Republican Gov. Jim Justice is the state’s only billionaire, with an estimated net worth of $1.73 billion as of 2017, and he strongly urged the West Virginia delegation to pass the Senate’s version of the GOP tax bill.
Like Trump and other wealthy Americans who own corporations and assets, Justice will see the lion’s share of the tax benefits, and the longest lasting breaks, from the Senate version of the GOP tax bill. Meanwhile, average-income Americans will see any benefits realized from the tax changes quickly expire in the years ahead.
And Justice has a history of not even paying the taxes he is legally obligated to pay.
A National Public Radio investigation published in October 2016 revealed Justice — the then-Democratic nominee — owed more than $15 million in delinquent taxes and fines in state, local, and federal taxes, including unpaid fines for mine safety violations.
At the time, the Justice campaign tried to dismiss reports he was a tax scofflaw with their own version of fake news, calling the report part of the “political silly season.” Billy Shelton, an attorney for Justice Companies, also tried to argue that Justice was actually being a good businessman by not paying his debts.
Ultimately, though, the reports of Justice’s tax woes did not derail his campaign. Justice won as a Democrat in 2016, earning 49.1 percent of the vote and sweeping the most liberal areas of the states.
Now, fast forward one year later and Justice — who announced his switch to the Republican party at a rally with Donald Trump in August — has pushed the West Virginia delegation hard to pass the GOP tax reform bill.
“President Trump is continuing to keep his promise to Americans to help grow our country by providing our average families with significant tax relief,” Gov. Justice said in a release. “By simplifying and streamlining the tax filing process it lifts a huge burden off of the middle class.”
“Higher standard deductions and lower rates for businesses will also encourage economic growth and the creation of jobs,” he added.
The GOP tax bill is not a huge relief for middle-class West Virginians, though, and could end up being an all-out disaster for the state’s growing elderly population.
But the one West Virginian who is sure to benefit is Justice himself.
Justice has also found an ally in U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. With a net worth of $2.64 million, Capito also ranks among West Virginia’s wealthiest.
“I was proud to cast my vote for this legislation — a bill that I truly believe will help improve the lives of so many West Virginians and Americans,” Capito said in a statement shortly after the bill’s late-night passage. “This was a big moment in our efforts to deliver the tax reform solutions Americans need, and I will continue working to make sure West Virginians come out ahead as we work with the House on a final agreement.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, voted against the bill.