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Waste Watch: How much is special session costing the state?

As West Virginia's special session of the Legislature continues, Eyewitness News takes a look at how much it is costing taxpayers. (WCHS/WVAH)

The West Virginia Legislature has spent six days in its special session trying to hammer out a budget deal and so far, no agreement is in place.

Republicans and Democrats have spent six days in this special session and so far and they have not reached an agreement on next year's budget.

"The governor waited until May to call us back into session. So if there's any wasteful spending of the taxpayer dollars while we're in budget session, I'm really disappointed that the governor waited until May to call us into session only to give us major tax increases as his proposals," Cabell County Delegate Kelli Sobonya (R) said.

At a cost of more than $35,000 a day, legislators are burning through money.

"Actually, we shouldn't even be here. What we've done is extended the budget and it's something that should have been a priority the entire session. Instead, we fooled around with things like raw milk and bills that didn't make any difference," Marshall County Delegate Michael Ferro (D) said.

Eyewitness News looked at a number of facts and figures to determine how far that cash could have gone if we weren't spending it on the special session.

The West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition said it spends $6 a day feeding kids breakfast, lunch or dinner and snacks during the summer. The special session money could have provided that meal package to 35,000 students for one day.

The commissioner for the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services said last year, his organization's providers served roughly 1.8 million meals, costing roughly 39,000 a day. The special session money could have fed thousands of seniors for five days.

The Putnam County Aging Program spends $18,000 annually feeding needy seniors. The special session could have fed 117 seniors for 12 months.

It costs the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association $17 a day to care for dogs and cats. Running at full capacity, the special session money could have paid for the shelter's costs for 52 days.

Nobody like potholes. According to a Kentucky study, which also applies to West Virginia, it costs on average $32 to fix a pothole. The special session money could have repaired 6,562 of them.

Drug abuse is a major problem in West Virginia, it is a killer epidemic. The $210,000 spent on the special session could have sent 140 people to spend a month at the Union Mission Addiction Recovery Program, which costs $1,500 for 30 days.

The Union Mission also feeds people. $210,000 would buy a family of four two meals a day for 57 and a half years.

Finally, possible cuts to higher education are being talked about by lawmakers.

If West Virginia had a budget deal in place with no need for a special session, we could have sent 31 West Virginia residents to Marshall University tuition-free for an entire year.

"The fundamental purpose of the legislature is to appropriate money. And we spent days and days talking about social issues, some of which passed, some of which didn't pass, and we should have been working on the budget," Monongalia Delegate Barbara Eleischauer (D) said.

On Tuesday, when the gavels bangs down in the House and Senate, you can add another $35,000 to the special session total and watch it grow to nearly a quarter million dollars.

This year's special legislative session will cost the Mountain State a lot of money, money that could go toward bettering the state.

Eyewitness News asks the state's leaders how much this session will cost and will find some better ways on how the money could have been spent.

Watch a special Waste Watch report Monday, May 23, on Eyewitness News at 10 and 11.

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