CHARLESTON – The Senate today completed its work on the 2021 Fiscal Year budget after making a number of improvements from its originally passed version, including $16.9 million to the Department of Health and Human Resources to manage its foster care program.
In addition, the Senate made additional improvements over the House version of the budget, including fully funding programs like Governor Jim Justice’s Jobs and Hope program, Communities in Schools, and the West Virginia Department of Commerce’s Tourism Office.
“There is so much we should be proud of as we send this budget to the Governor,” Finance Committee Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said. “This is the third year in a row that the Legislature will finish the budget in the 60-day regular session, which saves the taxpayers money for an extended session, and, we’ve managed to allocate our resources to several programs at or above their current levels of funding – all without raising taxes on the state’s citizens.”
Another notable feature of the Senate’s budget is the complete funding of everything from 2019’s HB 206, the Legislature’s comprehensive education reform bill. The budget provides $3.3 million for the creation of a second Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy to be located at the former location of WVU Institute of Technology, and fully funds the Senate’s initiative to place cameras in all special needs classrooms to safeguard those vulnerable students. It also includes $2 million for the program that provides after-school backpacks to needy children, and $100,000 to the Cedar Lakes FFA-FHA Camp in Jackson County.
“It’s clear that we are keeping our promises to the people of West Virginia,” Senator Blair said. “We promised them we would take care of our children and our seniors, we would promote the best education possible for our students, and we would spend our taxpayer dollars in a fiscally responsible manner. I believe we have shown with this year’s bill what can be accomplished with smart budgeting and strong compromise between the Senate and the House.”
Among the highlights of the budget is the full funding of Governor Justice’s initiatives, which is an accomplishment Senator Blair said would not have been possible without the Governor’s Office managing those programs efficiently enough to have significant resources left over from last year’s budget.
“I applaud the Governor’s Office for not have a ‘spend-it-or-lose-it’ mentality, because we were able to keep his important programs – including tourism -- funded at the same level as last year because of the responsible management of those programs. West Virginia sees an enormous return on investment in tourism, and under the leadership of Commissioner Chelsea Ruby, that has only continued to grow. I am pleased to be able to allocate the full amount requested to her to continue to draw in visitors – and dollars – to the state.”
Senate President Mitch Carmichael congratulated the Finance Committee on its work to finish the budget on time, and within its means.
“From the beginning, our goal has been to make West Virginia an outstanding place for families and businesses, and I believe we continue to deliver,” Senate President Carmichael said. “I applaud Senator Blair, the members of the Finance Committee, and the Finance Committee staff for their hard work and their commitment to being good stewards of West Virginia’s taxpayer dollars, and especially this year for taking care of our most vulnerable West Virginians by fully funding the much-needed changes to our state’s foster care system. I look forward to Governor Justice signing this budget quickly.”