MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice was on the road again to tout his income tax reduction plan, this time in Martinsburg.

“Right now you’re at a crossroads.  — We need to do a tax cut.  We don’t need all of your money that’s coming to us.  You need the money in your pocket, in my opinion,” he said to a round of applause.

He said he’s looking for agreement for the plan among the House of Delegates, his office, and the state senate, whose leadership has questioned how to fund necessary spending if income tax revenue is cut by 50 percent. He said his revenue secretary has run the numbers:

“We have surpluses that are very substantial.  And not only that, Dave Hardy, who’s our Secretary of Revenue who’s sitting right here will tell you he’s bent every number beyond possible believe to make sure that we’re protected, conservative in what we’re going to do.”

Berkeley County and the Eastern Panhandle in general have had a problem recruiting and retaining government employees, something a citizen spoke about:

“I think this tax cut’s a bad idea,” said one speaker.  “I know that you believe that we’re going to have some money left over after the tax cut.  But I’ve listened to politicians all of my life — I’m 75, and they’re not always right.”

The speaker voiced his concerns that the tax cut would cut into teacher salaries in the state.  He talked about the competition for good teachers from neighboring counties such as Washington County, Maryland.  He said driving up and down the road in the Panhandle there are billboards, “from the good people of Washington County.  They’re wooing our people, our teachers, to Hagerstown Maryland paying them 20 thousand more dollars than they can make here starting.”

“If you want ideas about how to spend the money in the  surplus,” the man continued, “you could increase the salaries of those people out there working their butts off every day to keep us safe and to teach our children,” he said to applause.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all,” the governor replied.  “I really don’t.”

Another speaker wondered if the tax would be replaced by another:

“My problem is that you said no tax trade or one tax for another.  The rumors floating around are that you’re going to jack up the sales tax,” the speaker said.  “I think that’s terrible, because that’s a regressive tax.”

“You can forget that coming from me,” the governor said, to applause.

“Well, good,” the citizen said.  “Glad to hear that.”

“That’s a non-starter in the House, that’s a non-starter from me,” the governor said.

Dozens attended the town hall event Tuesday in a courtroom at the historic Berkeley County Courthouse.

Governor Justice has proposed personal income tax cuts of 50 percent over three years. The House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed the bill representing the tax cut this week. Senators have been more skeptical.

The reduction is structured as 30 percent the first year, then 10 percent each of the following two years. The same percentage reductions would be applied to all the current tax brackets.

A fiscal note assessing the bill concludes it would decrease General Revenue Fund collections by about $161.8 million in fiscal 2023, $1,084.5 million in fiscal 2024, $1,229.6 million in fiscal 2025, and $1,492.6 million in fiscal 2026.

The Panhandle News Network’s Luke Wiggs contributed to this story.