Saturday, 20 January, 2018

Justice, legislative leaders still divided on W.Va. budget

AP file AP file
Melissa Porter | 28 April, 2017, 08:39

A newly signed West Virginia bill cuts the authority of the state's Higher Education Policy Commission, a move backers say will give local campuses more decision-making flexibility and increase efficiency as potential budget cuts loom over public higher education in the state.

"There has been a lot of dialogue going on, and I do really believe we're on the verge of doing something great for the people of West Virginia", he said.

McDaniel's plan came as a surprise to many because in all the discussions about how to plug a $500 million deficit in the 2018 budget for the year beginning July 1, instituting fees at state parks had never been a major point of discussion in the recently concluded legislative session.

Armstead said to this point, Justice has "refused" to speak with House leadership. That budget contained NO cuts to the classroom school aid formula and the cuts to higher education amounted in most cases to less than 1 to 2 percent of each college's overall budget.

Justice said he also will ask the Legislature to approve a 4.5-cent increase in the gas tax, an increase in various DMV fees and legislation to continue tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike, and any future toll roads, to help fund a $2.4 billion road and infrastructure construction plan, a program he has said would create 48,000 construction jobs. Justice asked. "Our job here isn't to just balance the budget".

House Bill 2520 was overwhelmingly approved in both chambers of the Legislature; the House of Delegates voted 80-18 in approval, and the Senate followed with a 28-6 vote.

Justice challenged legislators to think about the options, saying a vote against this budget would be, in his view, a vote against opportunity.

The special session is set to begin one week from today, on May 4.

"I'm saddened that the Governor continues to refuse to acknowledge that his current plan still does not have the support of the majority of the House of Delegates", Armstead said in the statement.

"Speaker Armstead and I are honestly like on different planets", Justice said.