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Lawmakers look for path forward with budget veto expected

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Lawmakers look for path forward with budget veto expected
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

State lawmakers could be back at the state capitol before the end of the week to resume work on a new state budget. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is expected to veto the budget bill passed by the House of Delegates and state Senate last Thursday.

Sen. Charles Trump (R-Morgan) voted for the budget but would like to see less money taken out of the Rainy Day Fund. The budget bill soon on Tomblin’s desk takes more than $182 million. Trump said on MetroNews “Talkline” Monday the top priority has to be passing a budget by June 30 that avoids a government shutdown.

“If this government shuts down–and the state doesn’t pay its creditors beginning July 1–it would take a generation to recover from that sort of catastrophe,” Trump said.

Trump is hoping the governor puts bills before lawmakers that will raise the tobacco tax by 45-cents and take the approximate combined $20 million from the racetrack improvement and greyhound breeders funds. He said the two would make about $100 million in new revenue lessening the impact on the Rainy Day Fund.

The budget passed last week included $122 million in budget cuts. It may be difficult to cut more, Trump said.

“Every dollar the state spends there’s an advocate for somewhere, sometimes many, many advocates,” Trump said. “But what is unacceptable to me is to have the whole thing (state government) come to a complete halt July 1.”

Del. Tim Manchin (D-Marion) talked about a shared approach to the state’s revenue issues during Monday’s “Talkline.” He said business taxes should be increased along with the tobacco tax.

“I’m looking for something that’s shared. I think the citizens are going to have to share and I think other parts of the community are going to have to share on where we are going to go to get this job done,” Manchin said.

Manchin said he would support a half percent increase in the (Corporate Net Income Tax).

“We dropped it 2.5 percent, maybe we’ve got to put a half-point back on it,” Manchin said.

There’s also been discussion about a new tax on millionaires, Manchin said.

As for the cigarette tax, a 45-cent increase passed the Senate two weeks ago but was rejected in the House. The governor may propose a 65-cent increase. Trump, who represents a border county, said a steep increase in the tax would hurt businesses that sell tobacco products to out-of-state residents.

“We have to be mindful of not only balancing our budget, which is paramount, but putting retailers out of business in West Virginia,” Trump said.

Manchin said he might consider a cigarette tax lower than a $1.00 increase but that’s the best option.

“I know that the Democrats are strongly committed to the dollar a pack. It provides the necessary determents based on all of the studies to keep young people from starting to smoke and to get other people to quit,” Manchin said.

Gov. Tomblin is expected to veto the budget bill not long after it reaches his desk.