WV governor to call flood relief session next week

Charleston Gazette-Mail file photo by Christian Tyler Randolph The raging Gauley River passes under a bridge filled with debris on June 24, the day after floods devastated parts of Southern West Virginia.
Charleston Gazette-Mail file photo by Christian Tyler Randolph  The raging Gauley River passes under a bridge filled with debris on June 24, the day after floods devastated parts of Southern West Virginia.
Charleston Gazette-Mail file photo by Christian Tyler Randolph
The raging Gauley River passes under a bridge filled with debris on June 24, the day after floods devastated parts of Southern West Virginia.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Tuesday he plans to call a special session of the Legislature next week to address the state’s share of funding for more than $300 million of recovery costs from the June 23 floods in central and southern West Virginia.

“We should have everything ready to go by tomorrow,” Tomblin said of the session, which will coincide with regularly scheduled September legislative interim meetings.

Tomblin hopes the Federal Emergency Management Agency will increase its share of the flood recovery costs from 75 percent to 90 percent.

“We’re going to continue to push [for] that,” he said of seeking the higher share of federal funding. “It’s not a guarantee.”

That means the Legislature will need to authorize somewhere between $30 million and $75 million of state funding for flood recovery costs, which Tomblin said will likely come from a combination of unspent funds from the 2015-16 budget year and from appropriations from the state’s Rainy Day emergency reserve funds.

“Thank goodness we have that,” Tomblin said of the Rainy Day funds, a comment apparently intended for legislators who proposed severe raids on the emergency funds to balance the 2016-17 state budget.

During the extended special session on the budget, Tomblin vetoed a plan to raid more than $180 million of Rainy Day funds to close the state’s financial shortfall, ultimately agreeing to a budget compromise that took about $70 million out of the reserve funds.

 Tomblin said Tuesday afternoon he planned to contact legislative leaders Tuesday evening or today to finalize plans for the special session.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Charleston for interim meetings on Sunday, and the interim schedule has blocked out 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. time periods on Monday and Tuesday for the anticipated special session.

Tomblin had put off the special session until school systems in the 12 affected counties — Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Roane, Summers and Webster — could finalize cost estimates to repair or replace schools.

The cost of repairing damage to state highways from the June 23 flooding is also estimated to be in excess of $55 million.

Tomblin said he expects that the session, which he said will be limited to flood relief, can be completed in a day or two.

“I would anticipate it should be fairly simple,” he said.

Reach Phil Kabler at [email protected], 304-348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

To see more from the Charleston Gazette-Mail, click here. 

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