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Democrats say Justice budget compromise explanation is well-received

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House Minority Leader Tim Miley says the best aspect of a budget conversation with the governor is hearing a possible compromise be explained in Jim Justice’s own words.

“I think for the first time the governor had a chance to share his plan for a path towards prosperity in terms of job creation and infrastructure development with a good portion of our caucus,” Miley, D-Harrison, said after a two-hour, closed-door session between some House Democrats and Gov. Jim Justice.

The budget that was passed by the House and Senate on the final night of the legislative session draws about $90 million from the Rainy Day Fund and also reduces funding for higher education and for the medical services line item for the Department of Health and Human Resources. Justice announced his veto of that budget last week.

Earlier on the final night of the session, Justice announced a possible compromise between his administration and the Senate that would include the Senate majority’s desire to cut the state income tax with the governor’s tax and highway revenue proposals.

“As you may recall, on the last night of the session, this plan came together rather quickly and he didn’t have a chance to explain it and articulate it to our caucus. On this day, Governor Justice sat down with us for a couple of hours and explained why this is his view of the best path forward to avoid dying on the vine as a state,” Miley said.

Justice has been having similar conversations about a possible budget compromise with other legislative leaders, including Senate President Mitch Carmichael, Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso and House Speaker Tim Armstead.

The House Republican leadership has reported little progress so far on talks. They object to aspects of the plan that would raise the state sales tax by a percentage as well as a corporate activities tax backed by Justice.

“I think the governor is trying to gather as much support for his plan and reach a compromise as much as he can,” Miley said. “And I think that’s going to include the House and Senate Republican leadership as well as the House and Senate Democratic caucus members.

“It’s a work in progress that’s not completed yet. And at the end of the day, I think he hopes most people in the House and Senate in bipartisan fashion will support his plan.”

About half of the Democrats in the House were able to attend Wednesday afternoon’sĀ conversation with Justice. Miley said he would brief the rest of the Democratic caucus, likely via conference call.

“I think most of our caucus members who were here today were very receptive,” Miley said. “At the end of the day, neither Governor Justice nor many in our caucus believe there’s a viable alternative.

“The budget that passed that was ultimately vetoed just pulled money from the Rainy Day Fund and made cuts but was devoid of any vision for the state and any pathway forward.”

Other Democrats exiting the meeting, which was in the Governor’s Conference Room off from the Secretary of State’s office, said they were glad to have been pulled into the loop.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said he was glad to hear what Justice had to say.

“I feel that our governor is a real leader and he has a vision for this state,” Pushkin said. “I’m glad he vetoed the budget. I would have hated to have seen what the ultimate effect would have been.”

Pushkin said he recognizes some aspects of the budget will have to be areas of compromise.

“When you reach a compromise, which is what we have to do here in this building, nobody gets everything they want — that’s called compromise.”

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