West Virginia budget deficit balloons during coronavirus

Local News

West Virginia Capitol Building. February 17, 2020.

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — West Virginia’s Legislature and Governor may soon have to deal with a major budget crisis due to COVID-19. The state’s sales tax revenue is way down because so many businesses are closed, and the state’s income tax collections are way off, because so many people are out of work. While Congress and the White House approved millions in federal aid, the current rules won’t allow states to use that money to offset a budget deficits.

“A minimum of 1.25 billion dollars will come to West Virginia. Now currently, there are a lot of restrictions on that money. Those restrictions should be lifted, and be able to be used for revenue shortfalls,” says State Sen. Mitch Carmichael, (R) Jackson – Senate President.

The local push for Congress to change the rules, has bipartisan support.

“But this public health crisis has brought upon it an unforeseeable economic crisis. And it’s going to take the power of the federal government to help the states,” says Del. Mike Pushkin, (D) Kanawha.

Without that power, states may be forced to make cuts. One area that won’t be curtailed in the West Virginia National Guard’s response to the crisis. The Guard gets a lot of its expenses reimbursed either through the Pentagon, or FEMA.

“Trying to a good job of moving that forward quickly in light of the challenges the Governor and Legislature face with managing this budget hole that’s been created,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, West Virginia National Guard.

Much of the money being sent to West Virginia is designated for medical protection, and health care treatment related to coronavirus cases as well as emergency response.

“Right now lawmakers on both sides of the aisle here in Charleston say this is really up to Congress. The problem is Congress is not in session right now because of Covid-19, and no one is certain when those lawmakers are coming back,” said Mark Curtis, 59 News Chief Political Reporter.

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