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Second special session called to spend budget surplus dollars

CHARLESTON — Not content to wait until the end of the fiscal year on June 30, Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday he would call a second special legislative session next week to spend excess tax revenue dollars.

During his COVID-19 briefing Thursday at the Capitol, Justice announced he would sign a proclamation today calling the West Virginia Legislature into special session at noon June 24.

“We have done great in our state,” Justice said. “We have a tremendous surplus and we want to absolutely put that to good use to absolutely benefit us as we go forward.”

Justice said he will present bills to the Legislature to appropriate more than $250 million from the tax revenue surplus the state has collected so far during the nearly 12 months of the fiscal year that ends June 30. Details about the bills will be released today.

“We absolutely have the golden opportunity here to do absolutely more goodness in West Virginia,” Justice said. “So, we’ll call the folks back in and try to get their blessing and try to move forward on a lot of wonderful projects.”

Year-to-date collections for the final 11 months of the fiscal year were $4.492 billion, giving the state a $389.6 million surplus, 9.5 percent more than estimates and 12.6 percent more than the final 11 months of fiscal year 2020.

Half of any end-of-year surplus must go to the state’s rainy day fund. Any remaining surplus will go to fund items placed in the surplus section of the fiscal year 2022 budget, totaling more than $58 million in items cut from the original budget but will be restored.

The state has already transferred $150 million in surplus tax revenue to the Division of Highways for new secondary road projects.

During the first special session of the year on June 7, the Legislature approved the expenditure of funds to the Division of Highways in a unanimous vote in the Senate and 91-5 in the House of Delegates.

During that June 7 special session, which coincided with previously scheduled legislative interim meetings, lawmakers also gave spending authority to the Department of Health and Human Resources for more than $809 million in appropriations from the federal American Rescue Plan. The Department of Education received spending authority to appropriate $94 million in unused ARP dollars, including additional funding for the school lunch program.

When not already coinciding with interim meetings, a special session can cost as much as $35,000 per day.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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