Governor Jim Justice calls lawmakers for a special session on Monday to allocate some federal aid to the fight against Covid, and the governor also wants to spend millions of dollars on highways needs.
Lawmakers had previously planned to be on Capitol Hill Sunday through Tuesday for regular interim meetings. Justice plans to convene the extraordinary session Monday at noon. There is no indication that it would be controversial or that it would last long.
“I don’t foresee that we will have to go over overtime,” Justice said today.
One element is to allocate funds that the federal government has already targeted for the state Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Resources.
Since the money is already specified for these agencies, there doesn’t seem to be much debate about this.
A few weeks ago, the state government received $ 677 million from the US bailout. Heads of state will have to make more complicated strategic decisions about how to allocate this money. These decisions should be made over the next few months, but would not be finalized immediately.
U.S. Treasury guidelines say the money can be used to support public health spending, combat the negative economic effects of the covid-19 pandemic, replace lost public sector revenue, provide a bonus for essential workers, and invest in water, sewers and broadband infrastructure.
“As we get more stuff we will call it back and look at any other issues as well,” Justice said.
As another financial matter to be examined in extraordinary session, the governor proposes to allocate 150 million dollars of the budgetary surplus that the State currently manages and to aim this towards the needs of the highways.
West Virginia announced its tax revenue was $ 152 million ahead of estimates last month. This was built on the strength of income tax collections which arrived a month later than usual because the pandemic caused the deadline to be postponed.
More generally, the governor predicts that the state budget will exceed annual estimates by $ 400 million by the end of the fiscal year. “We are pushing and knocking on the doors of a $ 400 million surplus,” he said.
Justice concluded that there was a lot of money to stimulate state investment in roads.
“This money is really needed,” Justice said, describing a total of 742 miles of paving. “Absolutely, it’s going to really, really help us continue on the path we’ve been on, which is to continue to do more and more to make our roads better and better and better for all of our residents. “
He said road works will be carried out in all 55 counties. “It’s mostly potholes, maintenance slides – and just general maintenance,” the governor said. “All of these projects are maintenance-oriented.
Lawmakers in West Virginia passed a bill in the last session to clarify their responsibility to allocate unanticipated revenue in excess of $ 150 million. The bill came after lawmakers were not involved in any formal process to allocate the earlier relief from the CARES Act passed by Congress last year.
With the current funding for the American Rescue Plan, justice said up front that it intended to involve lawmakers.
“It is important to reach out to the entities that can benefit from it as soon as possible and then take the time to determine what other critical needs of our state are that need funding,” said House Speaker Amy. Summers, R-Taylor.
“I think everyone can appreciate the effects of House Bill 2014 and add another look at how the government spends your money.”