Tomblin vetoes budget bill, but announces agreement with Senate on plan
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the budget bill Wednesday passed last week by the state legislature and announced he’s reached a bipartisan agreement with the state Senate on what the new budget should look like just more than three weeks from a possible government shutdown.
Tomblin struck down the budget bill in its entirety. He opposed the $182 million that was taken from the state Rainy Day Fund. The plan included no tax increases to fill the projected $270 million revenue hole for next fiscal year but instead used approximately $245 million in one-time monies.
“The budget bill passed by the Legislature is irresponsible and leaves significant shortfalls in 2018 and 2019 that would further deplete the reserves we’ve worked so hard to preserve. That’s why I have vetoed House Bill 101 in its entirety,” Tomblin said in a prepared statement.
The governor also announced Wednesday a plan for a new budget that includes a 65-cent increase in the tobacco tax, budgets cuts and account sweeps along with approximately $70 million from the Rainy Day Fund. It’s a plan senators support, Tomblin said.
“I applaud senators from both parties for coming together with a willingness to work with my administration to find a reasonable, bipartisan budget solution,” Tomblin said. “At a time when the state is facing such serious budget challenges, I strongly urge the House of Delegates to consider this bipartisan solution without delay to restore the confidence and stability so many of our state employees, residents and businesses deserve.”
Tomblin’s first budget for the special session that began last month had nearly $300 million in new taxes. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) called the new agreement a “balanced approach” to filling the $270 million revenue hole while keeping state government operating.
“He’s (Tomblin) compromised and the Senate has adopted that position, we haven’t voted on it obviously, but we anticipate being able to do that,” Carmichael said.
Sen. President and Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Cole said the governor’s deal is with the Senate Democrats but he expects “broad bipartisan support” for the 65-cent increase.
“I’ll have some Republicans vote against it but the majority will vote for it and I think it will be the same on the Democratic side,” Cole said. “I have worked with the governor every single day to bring about a good solution but I don’t want to send a message to the House that there was some backroom deal between the executive and the Senate.”
The 65-cent tobacco tax increase is expected to bring in about $100 million. Members of the House of Delegates rejected a 45-cent increase two weeks ago. Carmichael admitted Wednesday the agreed-to plan would be “a much heavier lift” in the House.
“I hope that citizens will voice their opinions through their legislators,” Carmichael said. “This is a balanced approach that solves the problem in the short term and puts us on a trajectory to a long-term solution. We (Republicans) have to manage our way through this problem.”
Approximately 20 House Republicans have taken a no new taxes pledge. One them, Del. Michel Moffatt tweeted Wednesday afternoon after the veto, “Gov. Tomblin has ensured a total shutdown of State Government.”
In a prepared statement, House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) said he was “saddened” by the veto.
“I must respectfully remind the Governor that the proposal to raise the cigarette tax was his idea, not the Republicans’ proposal. He now is seeking an even larger tax increase and I believe there will be even less support for this proposal within the House Republican caucus than there was for his previous tax proposal.
“We will continue working together to do all we can to pass a balanced budget and avoid an interruption in essential government services. However, if the Governor believes his most recent proposal is the right direction, I can only assume that he will be a more active participant in gaining Democrat support for it than he has been in the past. I say that not to cast blame for what has taken place to date, but to assure the Governor that his new proposal has little or no chance of being adopted unless he is able to deliver the support of his own party in the House to support it,” Armstead said.
During an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” earlier Wednesday, Del. Nancy Guthrie (D-Kanawha) said the House Democratic Caucus wants money from a tobacco tax increase to go toward fully funding the state Public Employees Insurance Agency.
“If that 65-cents is dedicated to PEIA I think you would probably get support from the Democratic Caucus. If it’s not, then I can’t say with any certainty that our folks would find that we’ve accomplished anything,” Guthrie said.
The special session is scheduled to resume Sunday but Cole told MetroNews Wednesday evening he would like to bring the Senate back to Charleston Friday but he and Armstead would have to reach an agreement.
The following is a statement released by Tomblin:
“Since October, my Administration has worked with legislative leadership and legislative staff to develop a fiscally responsible, structurally sound budget that provides a stable path forward for our state’s residents and businesses without relying on one-time monies to cover long-term and recurring budget needs. Over the past several months, I have presented two balanced budgets and repeatedly met with members of both houses and both parties to detail my plan and listen to alternative solutions to address our current and long-term budget challenges. The budget bill passed by the Legislature is irresponsible and leaves significant shortfalls in 2018 and 2019 that would further deplete the reserves we’ve worked so hard to preserve. That’s why I have vetoed House Bill 101 in its entirety.
“Although we have different ideas of how to balance our state’s budget long-term, I have worked with my colleagues in the Senate develop a plan, including a 65 cent tobacco tax, that balances the Fiscal Year 2017 budget without draining a quarter of our state’s Rainy Day Fund and while maintaining the critical services on which so many West Virginians rely. I applaud senators from both parties for coming together with a willingness to work with my administration to find a reasonable, bipartisan budget solution. At a time when the state is facing such serious budget challenges, I strongly urge the House of Delegates to consider this bipartisan solution without delay to restore the confidence and stability so many of our state employees, residents and businesses deserve.”