TEXT OF INTERVIEW
KAI RYSSDAL: State workers in West Virginia are getting some good news in a gloomy economy. With an unexpected $65 million surplus, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is spreading the wealth. He wants to give full-time state employees a one-time $500 salary ehnahcement, he’s calling it. Governor Manchin, good to have you with us.
Gov. Joe Manchin: Good to be with you.
Ryssdal: How did you wind up doing this, earn $65 million in surplus?
Manchin: We did a complete inventory, in trying to get our financial house in order. And we had some of the four best years we’ve ever had in the history of the state. And having those record years we’ve had for revenue, we also downsized state government, paid off debt and did some things very responsible. And what we had was $57 million of excess, more than what we anticipated from our excess lottery. And we had anywhere between $8 to $15 million in our general revenue.
Ryssdal: So this came from lottery winnings. So West Virginians are playing a lot of lottery then.
Manchin: Well, there’s more out of state people coming in, thank God, than there is West Virginians. The legislature’s been very good, very disciplined. They did not spend it or appropriate it for other things. And the workers and the state workers basically lived and did not spend the money that was not appropriated for them.
Ryssdal: Overall though governor, how is the economy doing in West Virginia?
Manchin: Our economy is holding. We’re having difficulties, our unemployment is 9.4 percent, which is very concerning to me. But basically, we’re living within our means. That’s the most important thing and we made the adjustments. And I believe that we should be able to share what we do. This is one way for me to say, thank you on behalf of the people of West Virginia for the job you’ve done. All the state workers, all the teachers, all the service people, everybody.
Ryssdal: Have you had to make any cuts to the state work force in the last couple of years?
Manchin: I have not made any cuts to the state work force. What I’ve been very careful in doing, Kai, is that I have not increased state employment. When we have anybody that retires or leaves the system, you have to exercise and show a need to replace that person or why we should continue to be hiring. So we had a lot of attrition that we have not replaced.
Ryssdal: When you speak with your fellow governors, do they pull you aside at these big conferences you guys go to and say, “Hey Joe, how are you doing this?”
Manchin: Well, we talk a lot. I just say we’ve been blessed. We really have. But we had to get our house in order before this ever hit. There’s a correction, a worldwide correction going on, and every state has to go through these corrections. I just knew you couldn’t run a state the way we had been doing it in the past. I knew there was some changes that need to be made and we just hit it perfectly, timing-wise.
Ryssdal: With today’s economic numbers, governor before I let you go, are you now pretty hopeful that we’ve seen the worst of it and things are going to get better?
Manchin: The best bet is that it’s going to last a little longer than any of us would like to see; it’s not going to be a quick turnaround or it’s not going to be a prolonged, four or five years out. With that being said, we’re going to have to work our way out of this and making sure we’re all in sync. If not, I can guarantee you, this boat won’t float.
Ryssdal: Governor Joe Manchin from the state of West Virginia. Governor, thanks so much for your time.
Manchin: Thank you so much.