CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senator Eric Tarr says he’s ready for pinch-hitting duty on the Finance Committee.

Tarr, R-Putnam, was named vice chairman for Finance on Tuesday. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal. But Finance Chairman Craig Blair was in a serious wreck on Saturday and needs some time to recover.

So Tarr will pick up the gavel as the legislative session starts. On Thursday, the Finance Committee will hear presentations on the state’s revenue outlook as well as Governor Justice’s proposed budget.

The budget is expected to be relatively straightforward this year. There’s not a major hole and there’s not enormous revenue growth.

Besides that, anything new related to state spending will roll through Finance.

“I am going to be in the chairman’s seat for a while and help quarterback the committee until we get him back up here in that role, and then I’ll be in my vice-chair position,” Tarr said right before the opening day floor session in the Senate chamber.

Tarr served as a volunteer Senate advisor for a few years and then was assigned to Finance after being elected to the Senate in 2017. He also spent plenty of time in Joint Finance Committee meetings outside the regular session.

So, he said, the learning curve should be manageable.

“It’s not as steep as you might think,” Tarr said.

He said the Finance staff and Blair himself should be helpful.

“He’s in close communication both with Senate staff and with the caucus here, so we can keep up,” Tarr said. “He’s not here, but he’s not far away.”

Craig Blair

Blair was in Charleston preparing for the legislative session when he drove to a Subway for a sandwich on Saturday. On his return trip, Blair was cut off in traffic, tried to avoid a collision and hit a concrete barrier head-on.

He broke his nose and seriously damaged his hip, an injury that required surgery on Monday. Blair wants to return to his legislative duties but had to be counted absent when the Senate roll was called at noon Wednesday.

Blair, R-Berkeley, called in to MetroNews’ “Talkline” today from Charleston Area Medical Center’s General Hospital.

“I’m on the mend, and I’m hoping I’ll be back,” Blair said. “Boy, I want to be back doing work for the people of West Virginia.”

Blair said the hard work of staff will mean the committee “will run like clockwork.”

He said he’s not allowed to put any weight on his leg for three months.

“But I will be back at the Capitol,” Blair said, predicting a return early next week.