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Agencies asked to detail impact of an additional 6.5 percent budget cut

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Agencies asked to detail impact of an additional 6.5 percent budget cut
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

House of Delegates Finance Committee Chair Eric Nelson raised a lot of eyebrows recently when he sent all state agencies a letter asking what impacts an additional 6.5 percent budget cut would have on them.

Nelson (R-Kanawha) is seeking specifics in case the legislature decides to cut its way out of the current budget problems instead of agreeing with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s tax increase proposals.

No final decisions on which way the House will go but everything should be on the table, Nelson said Monday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

“I think it is prudent upon us to go through these steps. At a time when our state is in very difficult situations—revaluate some of our programs in ways that we haven’t done before,” Nelson said.

Gov. Tomblin has proposed an increase in the cigarette tax and a telecommunications tax to help meet the projected $354 million budget hole this fiscal year. House members are undecided, Nelson said.

“There are House members that do not want to see any tax (increases). There are House members that believe you can do it completely out of cuts,” Nelson said. “There are others that see a combination and then there’s a group that says ‘you’ve got the Rainy Day Fund why not just use that?”

Nelson expects to get answers from the agencies this week. The governor is already proposing a previous four percent budget cut go ahead in the next budget. The 6.5 percent would be on top of that. Nelson said at the very least it will be good information to get from the agencies.

“It’s a better education of the members here in both the House and Senate chambers as to what we’re really faced with,” he said.

Nelson used the “Talkline” appearance to call on the state Supreme Court to cut its budget. The state Constitutional prohibits the legislature from cutting the budget of the separate branch of government.

“It’s the one entity that didn’t implement any cut whatsoever,” Nelson said. “It’s one entity that has proposed a budget increase in 2017 and its an entity that continues to fund their over funded pension plan.”