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Special session on budget to begin May 16th

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Special session on budget to begin May 16th
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will call state lawmakers into special session next Monday to work on a new state budget despite the absence of a widespread agreement.

With less than two months to go before the new budget year begins and still no new budget, the uncertainty is beginning to take its toll, Tomblin administration Communications Director Chris Stadelman said Monday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

“It affects DHHR. It affects higher education and it affects education. So we need to provide some certainty,” Stadelman said. “Even though we can’t say that there is a widespread agreement at this point the governor believes it’s time to get to work and get as close as we can.”

Hours have been spent in meetings during the past six weeks discussing whether tax increases, sweeping of accounts or further budget cuts should be done to meet a projected $270 million revenue shortfall in the new budget year. Tomblin will once again propose tax increases, Stadelman said.

“There must be additional revenue to take care of not only the Fiscal Year 17 budget but even more importantly the budgets going forward. There will be revenue measures introduced and those will be identified later this week,” Stadelman said.

The revenue enhancements will likely include the reintroduction of the telecommunications tax, which lawmakers rejected during the regular session. It’s projected to bring in $60 million a year. Tomblin will also propose an increase in the tobacco tax and possibly an increase in the consumer sales tax, Stadelman said.

“I think we will have a preferred plan but that doesn’t mean there’s not some flexibility or willingness to negotiate,” Stadelman said.

Members of the House of Delegates have been pushing budget cuts over tax increases but the governor appears less interested in further budget cuts. Some lawmakers also believe the Rainy Day fund should be used.

The governor proposed millions of dollars in budget cuts in the regular session that the legislature didn’t approve, Stadelman said.

The governor will have a solid plan when lawmakers begin the special session next week and they will have some choices to make, Stadelman said.

“If people choose not to follow his lead that doesn’t mean he’s not leading it means they’re not following,” Stadelman said.