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Auditor: W.Va. budget debacle could affect July payroll


The Intelligencer of Wheeling

WHEELING, W.Va.  — West Virginia Auditor J.B. McCuskey says if lawmakers pass a budget by the end of this week, his office should have no problem paying state workers and meeting other financial obligations come next month.

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Sam Owens
John McCuskey poses for photos with his wife Wendy McCuskey and their daughter.

But issues could arise, he said, if the budget debate in Charleston continues much beyond that.

The West Virginia Legislature is required by law to have a budget in place by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, and the first state paychecks of the 2018 fiscal year are set to be distributed July 7.

“Once they pass the budget, we have to download it and put into the system,” McCuskey said.

“And it’s 350 pages long. The last weeks of June are spent running payroll and implementing the budget, and the first pay of the new fiscal year is especially tricky. … June 19 is a reasonable date. If there is a budget in place by June 19, we will be able to continue continuity of government.”

McCuskey said the state’s budget debacle doesn’t just affect his office, but all of state government.

“My office is just in charge of administrating that part of government,” McCuskey said. “We are in charge of paying the bills, and there are aspects and legalities that become uncertain.”

In addition to paying state employees, the office also pays vendors for services and items provided, and makes payments on bonds.

The potential of West Virginia missing a credit payment could be “very bad,” he said.

Then the state has to start looking at payments into retiree pensions, according to McCuskey.

“An argument can be made that nothing can be paid if the government shuts down — but I happen to disagree with that argument,” McCuskey said. “The state auditor and treasurer (John Perdue) are provided authority through the constitution to ensure the welfare and health and financial status of West Virginia, and any funds that remain in coffers can be used to ensure the welfare and health of the people of West Virginia.”

On the list of priorities, West Virginia State Police troopers, guards at state prisons and workers at state hospitals would get paid first, as would the most needy on state assistance, according to McCuskey.

“Those who can’t take care of themselves but for government are the ones that need looked at first,” he said.

McCuskey said there is usally about a $100 million carryover from one fiscal budget to the next, and this could be managed “in such a way to last as long as possible for the people of the state.”

As for McCuskey himself, he and wife Wendy are expecting a special delivery on July 1 — the day of a potential government shutdown. Their second daughter is expected to be born that day.

“They are more than prepared for me to be at work that day,” he said. “There’s a full team of people willing to assist in that event.”

Other family members are ready to stand him for him if needed. The McCuskeys’ older daugher, Cam, is 2 years old.

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