CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s House passed legislation Thursday that would fund state government services and “essential” personnel while protecting the benefits of other state workers who would be furloughed if the new fiscal year starts July 1 with no budget adopted.
The vote came as the budget impasse between the House and Gov. Jim Justice continued unresolved.
The House, voting 82-2, would fund essential personnel from unspent funds in existing government accounts.
State Police who patrol or investigate crimes would keep working, as well as jail guards, state hospital employees, highway emergency personnel and some other law enforcement staff.
State agencies and departments would designate other essential workers and others considered non-essential.
“I hope it’s not anything we’ll ever use but we need to have it in place just in case,” Delegate John Shott said.
Justice proposed the legislation to authorize him to furlough state workers during fiscal emergencies and protect their health coverage and other benefits while temporarily out of work. The House amended it to limit the governor’s authority to do that to times when the Legislature has failed to enact or the governor has vetoed the budget, leaving the state government without its usual funding.
The Republican-controlled House and Democrat Justice have been unable to resolve differences over taxes, spending and closing a projected $500 million budget deficit in the coming year.
Justice-backed legislation approved by the Republican-controlled Senate earlier this week would cut state income tax rates while raising the sales tax to 6.95 percent and the corporate net income tax to 7.5 percent.
The House has proposed broadening the current 6 percent sales tax to apply to some currently exempt services while making deeper budget cuts than Justice wants.
The House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene Friday.