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Lawmakers back limited special budget session pay

By ANDREA LANNOM

The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — A group of legislators have announced their support for Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal to limit special budget session pay for legislators to five days.

Legislators introduced House Bill 2981 Monday, which along with a companion bill to be introduced in the Senate, would cap lawmakers’ pay during a special session.

In February, Justice announced his intention to push for legislation to pay for five work days for any special session needed to address the budget. The reason, Justice said, is because in 2016, the Legislature spent $35,000 a day on the special session.

Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, who is one of the sponsors of the bill, said he was pleased to add his name to the list of lawmakers supporting Justice’s plan.

“Last year, we wasted 60 days and wasted taxpayer dollars in a special session to get a budget,” Bates said. “I donated my legislative pay to Theatre West Virginia and flood relief. It looks to me like we are headed down the same path. I am hopeful this pay cap will protect the taxpayer and motivate the Legislature to get the job done with only 26 days to go.”

House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said in the news release the Legislature used all of the regular session and couldn’t come up with a budget.

“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 in the release. “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.”

Miley mentioned the downgrade by Moody’s Investors Services, saying that was an indicator to speed up work on the budget.

“I hope that the governor’s proposed cap on the number of days that lawmakers can be paid for a budget session will light a fire under all legislators to start looking at real solutions to fix our state budget,” Miley said. “I encourage all legislators to start working in a bipartisan way to fix the structural hole in our budget and get us back on a path to fiscal stability. Hopefully,

Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said 60 days should be plenty of time to find a solution if lawmakers work together.

“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 five days of a special session.”

Other southern West Virginia lawmakers who announced support of this legislation are Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier; Delegate Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier; and Delegate Shirley Love, D-Fayette.

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