Gov. Justice vetoes budget bill, delaying cuts to Marshall, higher ed.

The West Virginia Legislature passed its budget bill, House Bill 2018, this past weekend with many of Gov. Jim Justice’s original proposals not included in the bill.

One of the proposals in HB 2018 is cuts to higher education institutions around the state.

Speaker of the House Tim Armstead noted in a press release how much cuts to specific institutions around the state would be included.

“An 8-percent cut to Marshall and West Virginia universities and 4-percent cuts to all other state higher education institutions,” Armstead’s release said.

According to the release, these “cuts (will) apply to the state’s portion of the funding for these schools, and would translate to about a 1-2 percent reduction to their overall budgets.”

Marshall University associate professor and director of Masters in Public Administration, Marybeth Beller, weighed in on the potential budget cuts to Marshall University, but said no decisions have been solidified.

“My understanding is that the administration would look at taking small cuts from various programs rather than cutting anything specifically across the board,” Beller said.

According to a press release from Marshall’s Office of University Communications, the proposed budget would include an $8.3 million cut to Marshall University.

In a press release from Justice’s website, West Virginia University President Gordon Gee and Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert voiced their disagreement with cuts to higher education prior to HB 2018 completing legislation.

In the release, Justice sided with both presidents’ statements on the “devastating” cuts, as he referred to them, to higher education institutions around West Virginia.

Beller said she believed this was one of the highest cuts at one time that has ever been proposed during her 18-year tenure at Marshall University.

“Cutting higher education means that tuition is going to go up even further,” Beller said.

Beller also said the higher tuition increases from budget cuts could deter many students because of education being unaffordable.

She said the higher education cuts would affect West Virginia by leading to many West Virginians not getting a higher education, not being able to get into the job market and it would “fail to diversify our economy.”

“We lose all the way around when people are not educated to have diverse skills,” Beller said.

Gilbert released a statement following Justice’s announcement that he would veto the budget bill passed last weekend.

“I’m pleased at Governor Justice’s announcement today that he will veto the budget bill,” Gilbert said in the release. “That budget would have been devastating for Marshall University and higher education in our state. Significant cuts would have forced us to consider major restructuring of our programs and academic units, and to look at the possibility of layoffs of faculty and staff, having already eliminated 16 percent of our staff and administrative positions through attrition to deal with the budget cuts over the past few years.”

Justice vetoed HB 2018 Thursday, avoiding the higher education budget cuts until a new proposal is reached.

Kylee Hurley can be contacted at [email protected]