CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The chief of staff for Gov. Jim Justice admitted preparing for the 2018 legislative session was astoundingly different than preparation for the 2017 session.
A year ago Justice and his administration faced monstrous shortfalls in state revenues, a shrinking budget, spending cuts, and tax increases. It made for a contentious 60 days and even longer to finally reach a budget–one the Governor wouldn’t even sign.
But Mike Hall compared that to heading into this year’s budget, things are vastly different for West Virginia’s economy. It’s almost a night and day difference.
“Our P-Card spending is down quite a bit this year,” said Hall speaking with MetroNews affiliate WMOV Radio in Ravenswood. “That means our agencies are functioning at the level they need to be with less money. Combining reductions in spending with increases in revenue it makes the financial picture a lot brighter this year.”
Hall expected the governor to detail the brighter picture of the state’s finances when he speaks to the state during his second State of the State Address Wednesday evening.
“The governor is very enthusiastic about doing the State of the State. He’s the guy who likes to do it from the heart and speak directly to the people with no teleprompters,” Hall explained.
Hall took the position as the governor’s chief of staff last year, soon after the governor switched political parties. Previously Hall had been in the powerful position of Senate Finance Committee chairman–a position he said has helped as they have crafted legislation to present to lawmakers for the 2018 session.
“Having been on the other side of this, I think I understand what the legislature is thinking when the governor brings proposals to them,” he said. “It takes a while to get everything right. It’s not easy to put together 15 or 20 bills and some of them are pretty detailed in dealing with different subjects.”
Unlike the run up to the 2017 regular session, the Legislature, the administration, and actually the entire state is enjoying the wind at their back–rather than facing difficulties staring them straight in the face.
“It’s certainly a better picture this year than it was last year,” said Hall.