By Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette-Mail
Gov. Jim Justice’s 2019-20 budget proposal includes $200 million in one-time supplemental appropriations — including $105 million for a PEIA reserve fund, Budget Office Director Michael Cook told the West Virginia Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.
Justice, in his State of the State address Wednesday, announced he was upping his pledge for PEIA from the previously announced $100 million commitment to $150 million.
On Thursday, Cook said the difference will be made up through legislation imposing assessments on state agencies whose employees’ salaries are paid, partially or entirely, through special revenue funds or federal funding.
Justice’s budget plan also includes supplemental appropriations of:
- $28 million to the Governor’s Civil Contingency Fund for 2018 flood recovery claims.
- $20.6 million to the Regional Jail Authority for per-day charges for housing inmates.
- $20 million to the Department of Education for the purchase of drug abuse training equipment, part of Justice’s “Jim’s Dream” drug rehabilitation/vocational education program.
- $15.3 million for the Public Defenders’ Service, a perennial supplemental appropriation to cover fees for court-appointed attorneys.
- $6 million for veterans’ nursing home facilities.
- $200,000 for vans for Veterans’ Affairs.
Cook said the budget bill also includes $25 million in new appropriations for Jim’s Dream, including $10 million to the Department of Health and Human Resources for substance abuse treatment programs, and $15 million to the Department of Education, $10 million for vocational education and $5 million for a childhood drug abuse prevention program.
Sen. Doug Facemire, D-Braxton, expressed skepticism over the plan, questioning whether the $25 million in the budget bill will be one-time appropriations or ongoing expenses.
“I think the details of the plan are still being ironed out,” Cook said of Jim’s Dream.
“Before this Finance Committee goes further in approving this, I think we should know the plan,” Facemire responded.
Cook said the $200 million of supplementals will be funded through Justice’s raising of 2018-19 revenue estimates by $142 million and from $58 million that was put into the 2018-19 budget but was never appropriated by the Legislature.
At the midpoint of the 2018-19 budget year, state revenue collection is running $185 million ahead of projections.
Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, noted that the Budget Office’s six-year financial plan projects steady growth in tax revenue through June 30, 2025, seemingly contradicting Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow’s projection for a slowdown in state economic growth.
Muchow told committee members earlier Thursday that revenue growth will not sustain the current 13.5 percent pace, with the pending completion of natural gas pipeline construction projects in much of the state, as well as projections for downturns in coal exports and in natural gas prices.
Muchow told the committee that the four largest natural gas pipeline contractors in the state will have total 2018-19 expenditures of $3.7 billion, and total employment exceeding 18,590.
He has said most of the pipeline construction projects are on schedule for completion by the end of this year.