June 16. Record high gas prices have not yet affected visits to West Virginia state parks and other tourist attractions, Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday.
The Republican governor was asked during his two-week briefing on the pandemic if high gas prices were affecting attendance at state parks and tourist attractions such as the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. Although he had no statistics available, Justice said the attendance rate has remained stable.
“Our state parks are doing great,” Justice said. “Our orders and our rooms are really good. People choose many ways to stay here and enjoy the beauty of our state parks instead of leaving (out of the state).”
Meanwhile, Justice said tourists from nearby states are still traveling to West Virginia as usual.
“People close to West Virginia come here and always will,” Justice said. “Thanks to the upgrades we’ve made to the state parks and everything else, we haven’t noticed any significant impact.”
While members of the Democratic Party in West Virginia called on the court to call a special session to impose a tax holiday or temporarily suspend payment of the state gas tax, on Thursday the court again rejected the idea, saying it would be better to use the proceeds to maintain state roads.
A state tax of 35.7 cents per gallon generates about $35 million in revenue per month, which is used to maintain state roads.
“The Legislature refused,” Justice said of the Republican supermajority that controls the House and Senate. “This is the end of the matter. In truth, I’m not going to call a special session and waste (taxpayer) dollars in a special session. It’s impossible”.
Republican lawmakers have remained silent on the matter and are not issuing any statements or press releases that Democrats are pushing for a gas tax holiday, instead simply letting justice speak for them.
On Thursday, Justice said the “correct answer” for West Virginia is to keep repairing state roads, bridges and fences with monthly gas tax revenue.
As has been the case for several months, Justice’s weekly pandemic briefings continue to cover a variety of non-pandemic topics. On Thursday, Justice spoke about everything from the flood; his memories of the 2016 flood that affected Greenbrier County; the current heat wave affecting the state; the upcoming Hatfield-McCoy Trail Freeride Weekend for State Residents starting Friday and running through Sunday; public holiday in June; West Virginia Day; the fact that Justice would soon be knighted as an honorary recipient of the Golden Horseshoe; and his upcoming plan to choose the best cake in West Virginia for the West Virginia Day celebration.
As for the pandemic, the numbers dropped slightly on Thursday, with 556 new COVID cases reported. Active cases of the virus totaled 1,855, with three new virus-related deaths reported on Thursday.