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Justice extends WV legislative session for budget work


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Comparing House of Delegates and Senate budget plans to a “nothing burger” and a “mayonnaise sandwich,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday, April 5 announced he would extend the 60-day legislative session by one day.

Gov. Jim Justice compares the state Senate and House of Delegate’s budget plans to a “nothing burger” and a “mayonnaise sandwich.”
(Photo by Rusty Marks)

“We have spiraled into crazy land,” Justice said at an afternoon press conference on the 57th day of the regular, 60-day legislative session. Lawmakers are aiming to to pass a budget that includes plugging a $450 million deficit before the regular session ends at midnight Saturday.

Both the House and Senate were poised to pass their own versions of a budget bill on Wednesday, both of which differed in proposed revenue measures, cuts and other measures to balance the budget. But both rely heavily on cuts, a proposition Justice has promised to veto. The Senate passed its budget, Senate Bill 199, which has no tax increases, by a vote of 20-14.

Justice’s budget plan calls for a 1/2 percent increase in the state sales tax, an increase in taxes on the very wealthy and a commercial activity tax on business. Justice said the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the state contractors’ association are in favor of the business tax.

The West Virginia Business & Industry Council is not endorsing any of the three budget plans floating around the Capitol. But the organization issued a statement on Wednesday saying it would prefer lawmakers make responsible budget cuts before looking to tax increases.

BIC also said lawmakers should go into extended session to work out the budget problem, which is typically how the budget is settled — in a three-day or five-day special session that immediately follows the regular session.

“Members of the West Virginia Business & Industry Council urge the Legislature and the governor to take the time to get this right,” the statement said. “West Virginia’s future hangs in the balance.”

At his news conference, Justice was backed by most of the 36 Democrats from the House of Delegates. Staff members said Senate Democrats would have been there as well, but the Senate was in session discussing its version of the budget bill at the time of the news conference.

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