Region's Democrats call on governor to have special session about WVU budget shortfall

Sep. 12—CHARLESTON — Four Democrats who represent North Central West Virginia in the state legislature are asking Gov. Jim justice to call a special session to address West Virginia University's $45 million budget shortfall.

Del. Joey Garcia, D-Marion, Del. Anitra Hamilton, D-Monongalia, Del. Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, and Del. John Williams, D-Monongalia, say they want to have a session to support West Virginia's flagship institution.

"These cuts and their practical effect on faculty and the education that they provide are a reflection of years of inadequate funding to higher education," Williams said. "We are asking for $45 million as a stop gap measure to provide the administration more time to find alternative solutions."

Absent from the request was Marion's County own state senator Mike Caputo, D-13, who in August, joined with Republican state senator Mike Oliverio, R-13, to basically say they've done all they can to save WVU.

"We will also continue to closely monitor the developments as the Academic Transformation process continues to unfold. We know some of the decisions the University administration is making are not popular and have real costs associated with them," the statement from Caputo and Oliverio reads. "However, we also understand that the University needs to make some serious changes in order to remain the community stalwart it has been in the past."

Hamilton said there is still a chance to save the state's R1 Research university.

"As a legislative body, we have the opportunity and the ability to not only assist our flagship university with the finances needed to address their deficit, but to bring hope back in what seems like a hopeless situation for many faculty, staff and students," Hamilton said.

"With our record-setting $2 billion budget surplus last year, the Legislature has the ability to re-prioritize higher education funding at our flagship university," Garcia said. "This is the same amendment that we offered to a funding bill during the most recent special session that was rejected for being out of order."

Garcia encouraged Justice to remedy the situation now.

"We need a strong flagship university to keep West Virginians in the state and attract people to our state," Hansen said.

While World Languages has received a lot of the attention surrounding the cuts, there are several majors and departments that are slated to be reduced or discontinued altogether.

The lawmakers request Justice to convene an extraordinary session immediately in light of the impending meeting of the West Virginia University Board of Governors in which final program and staffing cuts will be voted in.