Senate, House leaders weigh budget cut scenarios

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Senate, House leaders weigh budget cut scenarios
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Leaders in the House and Senate have met by conference call in the last two days further discussing possible budget cuts in connection with the next state budget.

The Tomblin administration has put out a handful of scenarios on what impact $270 million in cuts with no tax increases would have, Senate Finance Committee Chair Mike Hall said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

The scenarios include cuts ranging from four percent to nearly seven percent in public education, eliminating the Promise Scholarship and closing down state police detachments.

Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall (R-Putnam, 04) says different scenarios are good for lawmakers to see.

It’s good for lawmakers to see those scenarios, Hall said.

“Now every legislator, doing their work, has to be deeply involved in the full array of consequences of doing these cuts,” Hall said.

The Senate would still consider a 45-cent increase in the cigarette tax to raise revenues and lessen the impact of the cuts, but Hall confirmed a House conference call Wednesday evening included discussion of scenarios with no tax increases.

Hall said he’s hopeful delegates who have taken a pledge of no tax increases will be come around after explaining things in their districts.

“We didn’t create this problem,” Hall said. “The GOP walked in here with the coal industry that had collapsed, with the nat (natural) gas prices down, other revenues are down and we were the ones that were told that all of this money would be here when it wasn’t. Maybe some of them (delegates) are saying, ‘Perhaps our districts will understand that.'”

After 22 years in the legislature, Hall said this is the most difficult budget situation he’s faced.

“We’re meeting, we’re trying to get to the yes. We know the public wants us to get this solved but we want to get it solved in the right way and do it with the least amount of pain, but at the same time there’s going to be some,” Hall said.

Senate leaders will be having one-on-one conversations with state agency heads in the coming days to get a better idea of the impacts of potential cuts.