The Governor’s finance team held a news conference Friday, to crunch the numbers. But some members of the Legislature continued to lob criticism. Budget highlights include 10 million dollars for community and technical college tuition assistance; 105 million to shore of the P-E-I-A health care plan; and 67 million set aside for teacher pay raises, that have not yet been enacted into law. The Governor’s team says state finances are in good shape.
“The uptick in revenue started shortly after the summer of ’17 and it’s been going basically, unbridled since. Now there’s always been ups and downs,” said Secretary Dave Hardy, West Virginia Deptartment of Revenue.
But Democrats say Republican leaders have yet to fulfill a promise.
“They all promised another five-percent pay raise for teachers and during the regular legislative session, they failed to pass that. And now the taxpayers are going to have to pay for a special session for them to keep their promise,” said Del. Mike Pushkin, (D) Kanawha.
The budget also includes money for “Jim’s Dream” a program to treat and train convicted drug offenders back into the work force. There are millions for broadband expansion and cyber security. The big question is how much will be spent on roads, if the budget surplus grows by perhaps 50 million more dollars.
“I won’t speak for the Governor or the Legislature. That would require supplemental appropriation, but I think it’s fair to say everybody is focused on the roads right now,” said Dave Hardy, WV Secretary of Revenue.
At it’s peak the budget surplus reached 186 million dollars this year, but most of that has been allocated.
“The Revenue Secretary said the dramatic change in West Virginia’s finances from the deep deficits of two and three years ago was ‘miraculous’. But neither he nor anyone else here can guarantee that trend will continue,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.