Left with few options, Justice may allow budget to become law

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice may allow the budget bill passed by lawmakers last weekend become law without his signature.

Justice’s Chief of Staff Nick Casey and House Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison) both said on MetroNews “Talkline” Tuesday the legislature has left Justice few options.

“If it’s clear that the Speaker (House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead) and his leadership team are dug in and there’s no benefit to vetoing this budget and trying to come to a compromise then what options is the governor left with?” Miley asked.

Casey said he’s spoken with both Armstead and Senate President Mitch Carmichael since the end of the session. Carmichael wants to continue the compromise discussion about the governor’s plan joined with some tax reform while Armstead wants the governor to sign the budget lawmakers passed.

“The House has kind of put their foot down with us and the Senate has said ‘we’re willing to talk.’ So it’s difficult to see how to proceed with that. If one of the parties doesn’t want to participate with us, they’ve made up their mind, they’re fine with it, you can’t make it happen. So that’s a problem,” Casey said.

The budget passed by lawmakers, largely along party lines, calls for no tax increases, makes $110 million in spending cuts, mainly to higher education and DHHR, while going to the Rainy Day Fund for $90 million.

During an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” Monday, Armstead called on Justice sign the budget. It said it was “sound and solid” and was a plan that represented a state “living within its means.”

Miley didn’t vote for the budget.

“We’re cutting where we should be investing and there seems to be no political will to make the tough decisions whether it be revenue increases or hard cuts,” Miley said.

Casey believes the ball is not as much in the governor’s court as it is between the House and Senate.

“If the Republican leadership in the House and the Republican leadership in the Senate could find a way to have a common conversation with themselves first then I think the idea of going forward to talk about the budget in some manner makes great sense,” he said.

In the meantime, Casey said the Justice administration needs to begin moving forward with how state government will operate with an additional $110 million in cuts.

“If that’s what’s going to be the end game—then as an administrative staff in the governor’s office—we need to start making the moves that allow these cuts to occur and these revenue adjustments to occur,” Casey said.

Meanwhile there appears to be a few problems with the budget bill (HB 2018) that passed. Casey said it’s about $31 million out of balance because some areas lawmakers thought they would gain some revenue, greyhounds and racetrack modernization fund, didn’t happen. There’s also an apparent issue about the effective date. There weren’t enough votes to make the measure “effective from passage” so now the bill won’t take effect until 90 days from passage which is July 8 a week after the new fiscal year begins.

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