Justice signs budget, warns that legislators will need to fix errors, omissions, funding gaps

Gov. Jim Justice

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Governor Jim Justice has signed the budget for West Virginia’s upcoming fiscal year. However, he is warning that it is essentially a work in progress that will require legislators to reconvene before the new fiscal year begins in June.

The legislature passed the budget at the very end of the legislative session last weekend.

There have been public concerns about cuts and outright omissions in the budget. In his weekly press call, the Governor expressed his frustrations with the way the budget was debated and eventually passed.

“I’m the guy that believes that the budget is first and foremost, and that is the thing that we needed to get and get right, and we didn’t get it right,” Justice said. “I have spent countless, countless moments, you know, on the budget that I sent up there that was fine and dandy. It offered a solution right off the get-go. And what did we do? We just tore that up in a lot of different ways. And even at the last moment, we were bickering back and forth.”

Justice raised numerous concerns with the final version of the budget. A major problem he outlined was funding cuts to the Department of Human Services that also resulted in the loss of federal dollar matches, an issue that has already prompted public scrutiny and outcry.

In some ways, Justice said it undoes work that has already been done.

“We have hundreds of thousands of people in West Virginia that are going to be affected,” Justice said. “Can you imagine the good work that we did, and now we could possibly hurt those folks?”

That issue itself could result in legislators being called back sooner rather than later. Justice said that fixing the issue will take time.

Another sticking point for Justice was the clerical mistakes made in the bill, which he attributed to a lack of time spent on the budget. Instead, he says the legislature preoccupied itself with bills that focused on social bills, which Justice views as less important. Many of those bills died on the last day of the session.

“We spent a lot of time talking about issues that were more social issues and forgot to budget,” Justice said. “We tried to run in and switch this and that and everything else, and we made a bunch of mistakes.”

Those mistakes were highlighted in the letter that Justice sent to the Secretary of State to accompany the signed budget bill.

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