BRADENTON, Fla. – The West Virginia Legislature adjourned Friday after passing a second budget that represents less than what the governor sought, setting the stage for a government shutdown.
GOP-led lawmakers approved a $4.2 billion general fund budget for 2018 that cuts $85 million largely from higher education.
Gov. Jim Justice, a Democrat who sought a $4.35 billion general fund budget plus other concessions, is now considering whether he will veto or approve the Legislature’s second spending bill. He said he would make an announcement Wednesday morning.
The fiscal year begins July 1.
West Virginia does not have a continuing resolution process to operate without an approved budget, although some behind-the-scenes work reportedly was ordered by the administration to prepare for an eventual shutdown.
House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said the Legislature’s budget makes no cuts to Medicaid, although is lower than the current budget because of lower severance tax collections from the energy industry.
“This balanced budget controls government spending, lives within our means and prevents a government shutdown,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. “I strongly encourage Gov. Justice to sign this bill and ease our citizens’ concerns.”
Justice vetoed the first spending plan passed by lawmakers to further discussions for his proposed budget, which included raising revenue for economic development.
The governor also sought tax reforms and revenue raising measures that passed the Senate, but not the House, which led to the budget pact approved last week.
Lawmakers adjourned until Monday. They still have work to do on a bill that would provide emergency funding for essential state agencies to operate as well as a process to furlough state employees if a budget is not enacted by July 1.
While lawmakers disagreed with the governor over spending priorities, they did agree to raise revenue for transportation projects and to continue tolling on the West Virginia Turnpike – both measures sought by Justice.
Both chambers passed SB1006, which would increase the funding for the state road fund by an estimated $59.8 million in fiscal 2018 through a combination of fee increases, including raising Division of Motor Vehicle fees, motor fuel excise taxes, and the sales and services tax rates consumers pay to purchase vehicles.
SB1003, also on Justice’s desk, prevents the sunset of tolls on West Virginia’s Turnpike in 2019.
The measure allows the West Virginia Parkways Authority to continue collecting turnpike tolls, which currently amounts to $90 million per year, and to issue toll-backed revenue bonds to finance projects for itself and the state Department of Transportation.