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Democrats in Legislature eschew special session pay

By RUSTY MARKS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Democrats in the West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate say they’re on board with a proposal from Gov. Jim Justice that lawmakers not be paid if they’re forced to go into special session to pass a state budget.

Justice, who has been pushing the Republican-led Legislature to come up with a budget plan, recently said lawmakers should not get paid if they don’t pass a budget before the end of the 60-day regular legislative session in April. The Legislature traditionally meets in special session immediately after the end of the regular session to finalize its budget, which usually occurs within a few days. Failure of the Senate and House to agree on a budget last year forced a lengthy special session.

“Last year, legislators spent the entire regular session and couldn’t come up with a workable and sensible budget,” said House Minority Leader Delegate Tim Miley, D-Harrison. “Indeed, the failure to pass a responsible budget during the regular 60-day session caused a special session to be held that cost taxpayers $600,000 and almost caused the government to shut down.

“West Virginia residents deserve better than the uncertainty that comes with delayed action on a budget, especially when they are footing the bill,” Miley said. “That is why we are supportive of Gov. Justice’s proposal to limit the pay of legislators to only five days of a special session to get a budget passed.”

On Monday, Democrats in the House introduced House Bill 2891, which would cap legislative pay for a special session at five days if a budget bill is not enacted. A similar bill is expected to be introduced by Senate Democrats.

“We are facing a fiscal crisis and 60 days should be plenty of time to find a solution if we work together and focus on finding solutions we can all support,” said Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion. “If we use our time during session wisely, then we shouldn’t have to be here in June still working on the budget like we were last year. And the last thing we need is any incentive to be here in June, which is why I support the Governor’s proposal to limit pay for legislators to only 5 days of a special session.”

On Monday, House and Senate Republicans unveiled a “budget framework” that would limit state spending to no more than $4.055 billion, and promised to pass a budget before the end of the legislative session.

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