With session over, questions on balancing budget remain

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With session over, questions on balancing budget remain
By Matt Maccaro, MetroNews

With the extended budget legislative session over and the state facing $92 million more in revenue shortfall than expected, House Finance Committee Chair Eric Nelson said all solutions should be looked at.

State law requires a balanced budget by the start of the 2017 Fiscal Year on July 1. Nelson said raising taxes, cutting spending and taking money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund must be considered.

“It must look at all three, and I think the House budget had all three in play,” Nelson said on MetroNews “Talkline” Thursday. “I believe the Senate budget did as well. The House budget was roughly $120 million below the Senate budget; we were working within our revenues.”

Nelson pointed out that Democrat leadership blaming the GOP majority for the lack of a budget wouldn’t solve anything.

“We’re not at a mode right now where you point fingers at everybody, because if that continues on, we’re at an impasse and the citizens of West Virginia end up losing.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is very protective of using any Rainy Day Fund money because of the potential for any one time expenses, because it could hurt the state’s bond rating, said his Communications Director Chris Stadelman.

“We’ve seen Kentucky’s downgraded, Pennsylvania’s downgraded. We would like to avoid that,” said Stadelman. “I think that’s something that the governor and (Revenue) Secretary (Bob) Kiss have worked hard on building over the last couple decades. To say it doesn’t have a big impact–it means that it if we borrow money to build schools or roads, it will cost more.”

Tomblin’s 45 cent increase proposal on a pack of cigarettes statewide was eventually shot down during the session, but Nelson said he tried his best to push it forward.

“House Finance Committee and I as chair tried like a dickens as it related to the tobacco tax,” he said. “That particular bill was amended with a Democratic amendment, and then it failed later.”

Stadelman also said that Tomblin wanted to see each solution discussed among the entire Legislature.

“Everyone has to be at the table, and everything has to be on the table,” Stadelman said. “We’re fine with that. We agree that it’s going to take some additional revenue, it probably will take some cuts, and we may have to look at the Rainy Day Fund.”

West Virginia’s budget hole got $92 million deeper on Tuesday, as the extended session ended and Tomblin sent lawmakers home until further notice. They could be called back as early as April.