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Justice confident WV will finish fiscal year on June 30 with balanced budget

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Gov. Jim Justice said Friday he is confident West Virginia will close out the 2019-20 budget year on June 30 with a balanced budget. He added that he will not need to call the Legislature into special session to transfer Rainy Day reserve funds to fill a budget shortfall.

“We feel absolutely dead-level confident now we’re not going to need extra dollars now,” he said during his daily COVID-19 briefing.

Justice said June revenue collection is running $20 million to $25 million ahead of estimates that previously had been revised downward to account for COVID-19-related declines in economic activity.

Before that revision, the West Virginia Budget Office projected that the state would collect $468.66 million in tax revenue for the month. Justice, in the teleconference, did not specify how much those estimates were revised downward.

Through May, state revenue collection for the 2019-20 budget year was running a $236.35 million shortfall.

As early as April, Justice downplayed the need for a special session, expressing confidence that U.S. Treasury rules for spending of federal stimulus funds would be revised to allow states to use a portion of that money to backfill budget deficits. To date, though, that change has not been approved.

West Virginia received $1.25 billion in federal stimulus funds in April, and has appropriated only about $11 million of that total in payments to cities and counties in the state.

Justice previously has said he hoped to close the budget shortfall by sweeping accounts and transferring funds, but he has not discussed specifics.

He said Friday that nearly $200 million of the current shortfall is the result of moving the deadline for filing state income tax returns from April 15 to July 15 and that money will come in next month, at the start of the 2020-21 budget year.

Also Friday, Justice urged West Virginians to “think twice” before taking vacations in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, after a spate of coronavirus cases were reported by a several families who had recently vacationed at the popular destination, recently deemed a COVID-19 hot spot.

He called on those who do take Myrtle Beach vacations to get tested for coronavirus and to consider self-quarantining upon return.

Despite that, and with COVID-19 outbreaks reported at six churches around the state, Justice said West Virginia will proceed Monday with Week 9 reopenings under his multi-week plan to reopen businesses and activities closed in the spring in the coronavirus lockdown.

Week 9 reopenings include allowing the resumption of outdoor sports with spectators on Monday.

“We’re thinking and rethinking everything nonstop,” Justice said when asked if he would revisit the pace of reopenings if new COVID-19 cases continue to increase.

Reach Phil Kabler at

philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220

or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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