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Governor, Senate and House all at odds over budget plans

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Governor, Senate and House all at odds over budget plans
By Lacie Pierson, Herald- Dispatch

CHARLESTON — The 134 members of the 83rd West Virginia Legislature are preparing to return to Charleston for a special session Thursday with the goal of leaving the state capital with a resolution for fiscal year 2018.

The special session will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 4, three weeks after Democrat Gov. Jim Justice vetoed a budget bill passed by the Republican-majority Legislature on April 8.

GOP-majority leaders in both chambers favor a $4.1 billion budget that is anchored to cuts in state government, has no new spending and less need for substantial tax increases to add revenue.

However, leaders in the Senate GOP majority have expressed more willingness to compromise with Justice.

Justice’s budget proposals include a base budget of $4.5 billion, $450 million more than the GOP proposal. It included raising taxes on sugary soft drinks and cigarettes, revising pension contributions and reducing previously proposed fractional sales and corporate tax hikes.

Lawmakers approved a budget on April 8, which Justice vetoed on April 13.

That $4.1 billion budget included no tax increases, instead relying on budget cuts and taking $90 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to plug an estimated $500 million deficit in the 2018 budget, which goes into effect July 1.

It also included an 18 percent cut to Marshall University.

Article 6, Section 51 of the West Virginia Constitution requires the governor to present to legislators a budget bill outlining how much money the state is expected to earn and spend and how it will be spent.

The constitutional language allows legislators to amend the budget bill by adding revenue or reallocating existing funds. However, the state constitution prevents legislators from passing bills that would create a budget deficit.

There is no official deadline in the state’s constitution for legislators to complete the budget bill, but each fiscal year begins on July 1.
If lawmakers fail to pass a budget by midnight on July 1, 2017, the state government would shut down.