CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — At one point, it was estimated West Virginia’s budget deficit would land between $250-500 million, caused primarily because tax revenue wasn’t meeting estimates.
Then, the COVID-19 crisis hit, putting more than 60,000 West Virginians out of work, which caused a huge drop in income taxes. This spring, Congress sent $1.25 billion in federal aid to help. A big chunk of that federal aid and other grants will be used to backfill WorkForce West Virginia, the agency responsible for paying unemployment benefits.
“Totally a masterpiece is how all the pieces of the puzzle were put together. And we’re going to be able to run across the finish line on June the 30th with a surplus,” said Gov. Jim Justice, (R) West Virginia.
But a lot of Democrats in the Legislature aren’t convinced. They say they believe he’s possibly using the federal money to offset the states already depleted reserves – something Congress has so far failed to give the states permission to do.
“The Governor is really counting on being able to draw out more federal money, versus the money – over a half billion dollars – that they’ve put into WorkForce. So once again, the governor is playing with somebody else’s money,” said Del. Mike Pushkin, (D) West Virginia.
The Governor also plans to spend $200 million in aid to help local governments, as well as $100 million to help keep rural hospitals and health care clinics open.
“Many lawmakers in both parties want the Governor to call a Special Session of the Legislature, so they can vote on the his CARES Act spending plan. But the governor says he has the sole authority to spend that money, and does not plan to call a Special Session,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.