CHARLESTON - The West Virginia governor's office wants more flexibility to respond to federal government shutdowns, saying Monday that state services would have been affected during the most recent closure if federal funding had been cut off for more than a month.
The federal government was partially shut down for 16 days after Congress failed to approve temporary funding by Oct. 1 for the nation to operate beyond the end of its fiscal year.
Jason Pizatella, the governor's deputy chief of staff, told lawmakers at an interim legislative committee meeting that state agencies receiving federal funds were able to cope with the shutdown because they were told to prepare ahead of time.
"I'm very pleased to say that we did not have to change or curtail or eliminate any programs," he said, without elaborating on how state agencies managed to avoid disruptions. "There were no layoffs, there were no furloughs. There was nothing of that nature."
The state has about 5,100 employees whose positions are funded by the federal government, with the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Resources taking up the lion's share of the state's federal funding.
If the shutdown had lasted more than a month, Pizatella said the impact on the Health Department would have been "tremendous," although he did not give details.
"I am pleased to report we did not have to change any services," he said. "At the same time, we learned some things that we think will require the legislature's help and planning going forward, because I think it's safe to say that we are relying on an unreliable partner at this stage, which is the federal government."
West Virginia's budget is about $11.4 billion. Of that, more than $4 billion comes from federal funding.
Pizatella provided few details about what possible legislation the governor's office might be considering, but he said that it could involve extending executive authority to make personnel changes. Department of Revenue Secretary Robert Kiss said the state doesn't currently have any statutes detailing a process for ordering furloughs, among other things.