Randy Yohe Published

Legislators Respond To Justice Budget Blowback

On Valentine's Day, a woman in red stands up in the West Virginia House of Delegates chamber to speak.
Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor, said she is following up on correcting human services budget shortfalls.
Perry Bennett/WV Legislative Photography

Lawmakers are responding to Gov. Jim Justice’s recent statement that the lack of health and human services funding in the recently passed budget is “a dog’s mess.” 

Even though Justice signed the nearly $5 billion budget bill, he said in a Thursday media briefing that he blames the gaps in health care and human services allocations on legislative leaders not listening to experts and setting their own agendas.

He’s considering calling the House and Senate back for an April special session to rework the budget. Some of the issues involved are childcare, disability and foster care initiatives not addressed. 

Del. John Williams, D-Monongalia, and a House Finance Committee member, said he’s concerned that the fear of a $465 million federal claw back on the use of COVID-19 emergency education funding may be a smokescreen for mismanaged revenue collections and tax cuts.   

“With inflation, in reality, we know that a flat budget is not a flat budget,” Williams said. “You’re seeing essentially reductions every year, and so we need to do a better job of investing in our people.”

Several lawmakers say the passed budget was simply a starting place.

House Health and Human Resources Committee Chair Amy Summers, R-Taylor, is also a House Finance Committee member. She said she pushed for the health care and human services allocations, and continues to seek further support for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“I have requested that the Finance committees really look into the waiver programs, maybe a deep dive from the Department of Human Services,” Summers said. “Sen. Tarr has a different idea about those programs than perhaps what the House does. So we need to understand that better, and find ways that we can ensure we’re taking care of our most vulnerable people.” 

Summers said the state is also waiting on a federal follow-through to enhance child day center funding.

“We’re waiting on the federal government to tell us if they’re going to start providing enrollment versus attendance,” Summers said. ”If that comes from the federal government, then part of those monies will probably come from them as well. But we do realize how important childcare is to get people back in the workforce. So it’s something that we are interested in looking deeper into.”