- Associated Press - Monday, May 15, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Despite ongoing talks to end his budget impasse with House Republicans, Democratic Gov. Jim Justice and his administration on Monday proposed steps for dealing with a partial government shutdown July 1.

Justice added a bill this week to protect state workers’ benefits should the budget impasse require furloughs when the new fiscal year begins.

“We have to prepare for the worst case scenario, and if that day comes, I want to ensure all of our state workers are protected,” Justice said.

In a memo Monday, Justice’s chief of staff, Nick Casey, told the heads of state agencies to start developing contingency plans, identifying essential and nonessential services, to guide how to proceed without a budget.

Republican legislative leaders have negotiated during the past week with the Democratic governor in an attempt to resolve disagreements.

The House and Senate each met briefly twice Monday then adjourned until Tuesday, with lawmakers saying they haven’t yet received needed legislation from the governor’s office.

“My general understanding is that the bills have been delivered to legislative services by his excellency the governor,” Sen. Charles Trump, a ranking member of the Republican majority, said Monday afternoon. “But they haven’t been formatted properly, so we expect to have them for full introduction tomorrow morning.”

House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles said lawmakers also don’t have the governor’s proposed overall budget bill in front of them.

The House 10 days ago rejected Senate-passed and Justice-supported legislation to cut state income taxes and raise sales and corporate income taxes to close a budget deficit.

Another contested provision would raise the gasoline tax 4.5 cents a gallon to help fund major highway reconstruction.

Del. Marty Gearheart, a Bluefield Republican, said Monday that lawmakers have decided to put off that funding measure until West Virginians decide in an upcoming referendum whether to approve financing the highway program.

Justice has proposed spending up to $2.4 billion through bonds supported by user taxes and fees for road and bridge reconstruction, a program he says could create 48,000 jobs.



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