BRADENTON, Fla. - West Virginia will avert a government shutdown.
Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday that he will allow the $4.2 billion general fund budget to become law without his signature.
“I can’t possibly put my name on this,” Justice said, calling the second budget sent to him a travesty. “The bottom line is I’m just going to let it go into law.”
The governor said a decision had to be made because there was no time to veto the spending plan a second time. The fiscal year begins July 1.
In a half-hour-long press conference, Justice railed against Republicans, the majority of whom pushed through the spending plan, as well as some Democrats who refused to back his budget proposal.
Justice, who advocated for tax reform and several revenue raising measures, said the approved budget won’t solve the state’s problems.
The spending plan provides no funding for tourism, festivals, or money to promote the state, he said, adding that it also strips funding for the state’s commission on women and historic tax credits.
“How blooming dumb can we be?” he asked.
Justice also said his administration believes that lawmakers back-filled portions of the Medicaid budget using one-time funding that may not be available in future years. He called that “hocus pocus money.”
The governor also contended that the 2018 budget would create gaps in future years ranging from $179 million in 2019 to $486 million in 2022.
“If I had time, I would veto this in an absolute millisecond,” Justice said. “But there is not time.”
The governor hailed the passage of bills that provide new revenue and bond financing for road projects, ideas that he initiated.
The West Virginia Legislature adjourned a special session on Friday after passing a $4.2 billion general fund budget for 2018 that cuts $85 million largely from higher education.
House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said the Legislature’s budget didn't increase taxes and made no cuts to Medicaid.
The spending plan is lower than the current budget, he said, due to lower severance tax collections from the energy industry.
“This balanced budget controls government spending, lives within our means and prevents a government shutdown,” Armstead said.
Without the governor’s signature, the budget will go into effect Saturday.
Justice said he would continue to work on budget issues, and that he might campaign against lawmakers who voted for the new spending plan.
“We avoided a shutdown,” he said, “and thank goodness we are going to send the Legislature home.”