House budget up for passage today

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House budget up for passage today
By Matt Maccaro, WV MetroNews

The House of Delegates moved its budget forward to third reading Thursday.

A lengthy House floor session that began around 5 p.m. Thursday saw most amendments to its budget rejected, including a proposal from Del. Ron Walters (R-Kanawha) to strip funding out of various accounts in the budget bill, including eliminating funding for West Virginia University Institute of Technology and Fairmont State University.

That amendment set off a heated debate, and was met with opposition from several delegates hailing from near FSU.

“It was really a waste of legislative time, and really a waste of staff time to draft those amendments that he knew had no chance of passing,” said Del. Mike Caputo (D-Marion). “To point at single areas and institutions and take away their entire operating budget.”

Another amendment to end funding for fairs and festivals was voted down, and was hotly opposed by Del. Issac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton).

“These groups, unlike the West Virginia Legislature, have to budget and set forth the budget on proper time,” he told the floor. “And here we are after Memorial Day without a budget. A lot of these events are getting ready to start. And we don’t have a budget but we’re going to make a commitment to cut their money.”

The House wound up only passing one of over 20 amendments proposed, having to do with restoring $500,000 in funding to the state’s ABLE Act. They also voted against the suspension of constitutional rules to take up and pass the budget bill on third reading Thursday night.

“I think it will pass tomorrow. I don’t know if it will have bipartisan support,” Caputo said. “There’s a lot of money that appears to come from the Rainy Day account. I know the governor is not very happy about that and will probably veto that as well.”

Del. Saira Blair (R-Berkeley) said the failure of the 45-cent tobacco tax measure meant the House budget would dip into Rainy Day significantly.

“Since that did fail, we are going to have to go into Rainy Day, it looks like about $140 million. It’s hard to tell,” she said. “It doesn’t look like the Democrats are willing to support and to lobby him, it looks like they’re at odds. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not he signs it.”

Blair also pointed out that overriding Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto on the budget would require a two-thirds majority, rather than the simple majority required on other bills. She disputed the notion that the special budget session, which will go into a third week after Memorial Day, has been a failure.

“We have been working. It’s been said over and over again that we’re wasting time in these past two weeks. That’s completely a lie,” Blair said. “Whether or not members choose to attend the meetings, that’s on them. But everyone else choosing to attend the meeting is working, putting in their insight and trying to solve this problem.”

The House will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday morning.