House leaders target cuts topping $100 million, but offer few specifics

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House leaders target cuts topping $100 million, but offer few specifics
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead said Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline” he’s trying to get agreement on more than $100 million in state budget cuts as part of the ongoing discussions concerning the next state budget.

Lawmakers and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin are faced with a $270 million budget hole in the budget year that begins July 1. Despite hours of discussions between Tomblin, Armstead, other leading lawmakers and the governor’s cabinet there’s been no agreement. Armstead indicated Tuesday there remain several hurdles to clear but movement must first come from the governor’s office.

“Before we can really put a plan in front of our caucus and the Democratic caucus we need to have the entire plan together and that includes how much the governor is willing take out of the Rainy Day (fund) and how much the governor is willing to cut,” Armstead said.

Currently the governor is more interested in coming up with the $270 million with tax increases, according to Armstead.

“I don’t see that happening. I just don’t see that happening,” Armstead said. “I’m not supportive of that and I don’t think very many of our members are.”

The House plan has focused more on further budget cuts, the sweeping of existing accounts and Rainy Day money.

“We have come up with a group of cuts that totals over a $100 million that we think we can choose from,” Armstead said. “We need to come together and try to work through what is the most effective way to do that without harming essential programs.”

Armstead was hesitant to mention specific cuts Tuesday but did say there is consensus to get money from accounts where there are job vacancies. He also supports picking up money that currently goes to the greyhound breeders fund.

“Whenever you talk about particular cuts that becomes difficult to get consensus around some of those,” he said.

The next state budget isn’t the only problem. The Tomblin administration announced last week an additional $100 million would be needed to fill a gap in the current state budget before June 30. Additionally, a group of Republicans in the House, members of the Freedom Caucus, has sent Armstead a letter saying none of its members would support tax increases. The caucus has more than a dozen members.