West Virginia’s Republican governor signs the budget but vows to bring back lawmakers for fixes

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a budget of just under $5 billion Thursday after criticizing lawmakers for approving it in the waning hours of the 60-day session with less money for some critically needed programs.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice delivers his annual State of the State address at the state Capitol in Charleston on Jan. 11, 2023.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice delivers his annual State of the State address at the state Capitol in Charleston on Jan. 11, 2023. [Chris Jackson | AP]
Justice was especially concerned about lower-than-expected funding for the Department of Human Services. He said he’ll likely call lawmakers back in special session as soon as next month so it can be adjusted by the end of the fiscal year in June.

“Why in the world did we do this?” Justice, a Republican, said during his weekly media briefing earlier Thursday.

Justice’s proposed a general revenue budget of $5.265 billion in January. He said some money that was cut from Human Services also meant that matching federal funding is gone, too. He said the legislative cuts could hurt some of the state’s most vulnerable residents, including foster children and disabled people.

“I am here to tell you, when we call them back, this will be front and center,” he said. “It’s going to take time to figure this out. Please tell me why we didn’t take the time to listen to the people who are the real experts. The real expects are the people that have been in our revenue department.”

Justice also wants the GOP-dominated Legislature to address other items he proposed in January that were ignored — a tax break for families using day care for their children and reducing the property tax burden for low-income senior citizens.

The legislative session was marked by budget disputes and controversial social issue bills that advanced but ultimately didn’t go anywhere. The session ended Saturday, when some lawmakers conferenced behind closed doors to agree on the budget.

The governor said he rejected specific appropriations to certain colleges and universities “to the exclusion of others.” He also nixed a $300,000 appropriation for a Cabell County facility that provides job opportunities and training for the developmentally disabled. Justice said the Department of Human Services believes the funding should be better used in another manner.

The budget process was thrown into chaos last week when lawmakers learned Justice’s office was in negotiations with the federal government over a potential $465 million COVID-19 funding clawback.