Governor Sees Bright Future For the State

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin sees more prosperous days ahead for the Northern Panhandle and predicts more investment in the area will come about as a result of natural gas drilling.

“I think the Northern Panhandle is poised well to get reinvigorated,” he said.

Tomblin addressed members of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday during a luncheon at River City restaurant in downtown Wheeling.

“The future is bright all over West Virginia,” Tomblin said. “During our recent trade mission to Japan, we brought back about $34 million, and a good part of that is the expansion at Wheeling-Nisshin – which is going to be a whole new product line they’re having up there. Hopefully create additional jobs for the panhandle here. And I think we’ll still continue to get investments.”

Williams Partners, a nationwide company that owns interests in three major interstate natural gas pipelines, has announced it will put “several billions of dollars” into West Virginia, he continued.

In his remarks before the chamber, Tomblin said West Virginia was “very fortunate during the recession to continue to have surpluses each and every year.”

“This year, we ended up with about a $100 million surplus,” he said. “Of that $100 million, we managed to work with the Legislature to save some of that money.”

About $24 million of the surplus was placed in the state’s “Rainy Day Fund,” according to Tomblin. There is about $808 million in the fund now.

Another $65 million was set aside for the Medicaid trust fund, he continued, as West Virginia is expected to have an increase in Medicaid costs next year of about $200 million.

State departments – with the exception of the State Department of Education – also have been asked to tighten their budgets by about 7.5 percent, Tomblin noted.