The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

March 15, 2014

Lawmakers pass budget relying on reserves

Republicans concerned about setting precedent

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia budget approved by lawmakers Friday dips into millions of dollars in reserves and gives public employees raises.

The Senate voted 25-9 and the House of Delegates voted 77-18 to pass next year’s budget. The proposal would take $147.5 million from the state’s $922 million Rainy Day Fund to cover a projected shortfall.

A secondary bill that passed Friday will free up another $21 million from greyhound and horse racing casino subsidies, and water and sewer infrastructure money, among other sources.

The last-resort account is considered one of the country’s strongest, and lawmakers haven’t used it to fill a budget hole before.

“The Rainy Day Fund was created for when we hit a rough spot and to cover these times we might have a shortfall,” said Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion. “Instead of taking drastic measures with cuts, we are using the Rainy Day Fund.”

Several Republicans were concerned about setting a precedent by tapping into the reserves, which must be maintained at a certain level to keep positive bond ratings.

“Now we are taking a very significant step backward,” said Minority Leader Del. Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. “We are borrowing to balance this budget from an account that was there for other reasons than for us to plug these holes.”

The budget’s passage ends a week of closed-door negotiations among the House, Senate and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to make the 2015 budget balance, as the law requires.

The plan includes $1,000 across-the-board raises for teachers, 2 percent raises for school service personnel and $504 raises for public employees. Officials say starting teacher salaries need to be more competitive with West Virginia’s neighboring states.

County elected officials also are due a pay increase under a bill lawmakers passed Friday.

House lawmakers, who face re-election this year, opposed increasing the cigarette or sales taxes.

House Democrats hold a slim six-seat edge over Republicans. In West Virginia’s traditionally Democratic Legislature, Republicans haven’t controlled the House since 1928.

The budget adds $5 million for a Medicaid program that offers seniors in-home care. It also strips $9 million from the attorney general’s consumer protection program.

“During difficult economic times, every office must do its part to put the taxpayers first,” said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican. “By doing our part and contributing $9 million to the General Fund, the attorney general’s office is helping to reduce the amount of money the state needs to withdraw from its Rainy Day Fund.”

Lawmakers face a variety of struggles to make the numbers work. Revenue from dog and horse track casinos has dipped because of competition from surrounding states. Taxes on the booming natural gas industry haven’t offset the struggles of coal, the state’s longtime staple product.

Other problems are self-inflicted, lawmakers say. A recent cut on grocery taxes, tax credit on alternative fuel vehicles and a drop in the corporate income tax have eliminated millions of dollars in revenue. Officials say the alternative fuel credit for cars could cost the state $100 million.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will now consider line-by-line vetoes in the spending plan.

Text Only
West Virginia
  • Lawsuit filed over Dirty Girl Mud Run

    A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of a run that was canceled in Charleston in which participants were told they wouldn’t be issued refunds.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVa. man sues GM over wife's death

    A West Virginia man has filed a lawsuit against General Motors Corp., claiming a defective ignition switch in a Chevrolet Cobalt caused a 2006 accident that killed his pregnant wife.

    July 24, 2014

  • Feds commit to health studies on spilled chemical

    After largely dismissing the possibility of long-term health problems, federal officials will conduct more studies on chemicals that spilled into West Virginia’s largest drinking water supply in January.
    In the next two months, federal health officials are also heading back to West Virginia.

    July 24, 2014

  • Park Service assesses impact of W.Va. attractions

    Four National Park Service attractions in West Virginia drew a total of 1.5 million visitors last year.

    July 23, 2014

  • This weekend's 'Dirty Girl' race canceled

    Organizers of a Charleston running event that was canceled for this weekend says it won’t issue refunds.

    July 23, 2014

  • Reporter heard truck backfiring, not gunshot

    Similar sounds in different circumstances create different reactions. That is so for WVVA reporter Annie Moore, who last Monday told police someone fired a gun at her while she was shooting file footage in the area of a recent murder.

    July 19, 2014

  • Cornhole champions being decided in Charleston

    Cornhole, the strange-sounding game made popular in backyards and at football tailgate parties, is taking on a serious side this week.
    The American Cornhole Organization will crown its world champions as about 380 competitors from 17 states vie for $10,000 in prize money in singles and doubles events.

    July 19, 2014

  • Multi-state distracted driving enforcement planned

    Law enforcement agencies in six states plan participate in a weeklong campaign targeting distracted driving.

    July 18, 2014

  • Female guard accused of having sex with juvenile inmate

    A West Virginia Division of Corrections officer has been charged with having sexual contact with a female juvenile inmate at the Lincoln Detention Center in Wheeling.

    July 18, 2014

  • Two charged in 1999 disappearance of W.Va. women

    Two men have been indicted on murder charges stemming from the 1999 disappearance of a West Virginia woman and her daughter.
    A Lewis County grand jury charged both Charles Stephen Freeman, 51, of Archbold, Ohio, and Joseph Metz, 39, of Horner with two counts of first-degree murder on Wednesday in a sealed indictment, media outlets reported.

    July 18, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads