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West Virginia Legislature gives Justice’s funding proposals warm reception


Charleston Gazette-Mail

Delegate Jeffrey Pack, R-Raleigh, listens to a speech during the House of Delegates floor session Thursday. West Virginia legislators appear to be warming to Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal to increase spending on economic development and tourism advertising, a plan they dismissed in the 2017 regular session.
(Gazette-Mail photo by Chris Dorst)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal to significantly increase state funding for economic development and tourism is getting a warm reception in the West Virginia Legislature — a year after lawmakers slammed the door on nearly identical spending increases in the 2017 regular session.

“A year ago, we were in a $500 million budget crisis. There’s more of an appetite to consider these things this year,” Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said of the change of attitude.

This year, thanks to strong investment earnings, $163 million of unspent Medicaid funds and a slowly recovering state economy, the Justice administration is projecting that the 2018-19 general revenue budget will be in the black and will not require spending cuts, raiding of the Rainy Day Fund or other adjustments.

That would break a four-year stretch of budget shortfalls, mid-year spending cuts and, for the past two years, extended budget impasses.

Opening the 2018 regular session Wednesday evening, Justice proposed two big-ticket spending items, increasing funding for the state Development Office from $10 million to $45 million and increasing the Division of Tourism budget from about $6 million to $20 million.

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