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Board of Public Works

West Virginia became a state in 1863. From then until the Modern Budget Amendment was ratified in 1968, a Board of Public Works exercised great collective executive authority. In 1918, it acquired constitutional status by ratification of an earlier amendment. The Board of Public Works continues today, with curtailed powers.

Historically the board consisted of seven elected executive officials: the governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, and state superintendent of schools. Ratification of a constitutional amendment in 1958 made the superintendent of schools an appointee of the West Virginia Board of Education, but he remains a member of the Board of Public Works.

Before 1968, the board enjoyed wide-ranging powers, which increased through the years. The board’s most potent authority was control of the state’s finances, including the areas of budgeting, expenditures, custody of public funds, assessment, taxation, and accounting. Having vast discretionary power, its approval was required for many steps in the administrative process. The system made it almost impossible to know whom to hold accountable for executive actions, particularly in budget and fiscal management. The governor’s power was limited, as one member among seven and having no particular power over the budget.

In 1968, the voters approved a single, strong chief executive by ratifying the Modern Budget Amendment, giving the governor primary responsibility for the state’s budget and fiscal management. The governor’s power greatly increased. The powers of the Board of Public Works were accordingly reduced and today involve mainly the buying and selling of state property, the assessment of the property of public utilities, and other limited functions.

Written by Donald R. Andrews


  1. Davis, Claude J., et al. State and Local Government. Morgantown Printing & Binding, 1963.

  2. Citizens Advisory Commission on the Legislature of West Virginia. Recommendations for Strengthening the West Virginia Legislature. Final Report. Charleston: Jarrett Printing, 1968.

  3. West Virginia Blue Book. State of West Virginia. Charleston, 1960.