Legislature passes budget, takes $245 million in one-time funds
By Phil Kabler, The Charleston Gazette-Mail
Unable to pass tax increases or make major cuts in government spending, the West Virginia Legislature amended and passed a budget bill Thursday evening that uses $245 million in Rainy Day reserve funds and one-time money to close a $270 million gap in the 2016-17 state budget.
The bill (HB 101) passed the Senate on a party-line 18-16 vote. Later Thursday, the House of Delegates concurred and passed the bill 60-37, sending it to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Democrats warned that the bill faces a near-certain veto by Tomblin, who has said he will not allow the Legislature to take more than a “few million dollars” out of the Rainy Day funds to balance the budget.
“While it may be the easy way to get out of town, it does not solve the structural problems in West Virginia’s budget,” said Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, who called budget plan “fiscally irresponsible.”
However, Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said he’s hopeful Tomblin will treat the bill as the equivalent of a continuing resolution, to keep state government operating after July 1. West Virginia law does not provide for actual continuing budget resolutions, which other states have used to keep government operating during extended budget impasses.
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