Following a news conference Friday, Governor Jim Justice continues to receive criticism from some members of the legislature after signing the state’s budget.
Budget highlights include:
- $10 million for community and technical college tuition assistance
- $105 million to shore off the PEIA health care plan
- $67 million set aside for teacher pay raises
Those pay raises have not yet been enacted into law.
The Governor’s team said state finances are in good shape.
“The uptick in revenue started shortly after the summer of ’17 and it’s been going basically, unbridled since,” said West Virginia Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy. “Now there’s always been ups and downs.”
Democrats said Republican leaders have yet to fulfill a promise.
“They all promised another five-percent pay raise for teachers and during the regular legislative session, they failed to pass that,” added Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha). “Now the taxpayers are going to have to pay for a special session for them to keep their promise.”
The budget also includes money for “Jim’s Dream”, a program to treat and train convicted drug offenders back into the work force.
There are millions for broadband expansion and cyber security.
The big question is how much will be spent on roads, if the budget surplus grows by perhaps 50 million more dollars.
“I won’t speak for the Governor or the Legislature,” Hardy continued. “That would require supplemental appropriation, but I think it’s fair to say everybody is focused on the roads right now.”
At it’s peak the budget surplus reached $186 million this year, but most of that has been allocated.
The Revenue Secretary said the dramatic change in West Virginia’s finances from the deep deficits of two and three years ago was ‘miraculous’, but neither he nor anyone else here can guarantee that trend will continue.