Tomblin won’t hesitate to send lawmakers home without a final budget

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Tomblin won’t hesitate to send lawmakers home without a final budget
By Jeff Jenkins | WV MetroNews

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told MetroNews Monday if he doesn’t see progress by the middle of next week with a new state budget he’ll send lawmakers home and call them back for a special session before July 1.

The House of Delegates and state Senate are expected to pass their own budget proposals by the end of this week. They will both differ from the governor’s proposal that he submitted at the beginning of the 60-day session. The governor’s budget included an increase in the tobacco tax and a telecommunications tax. Neither have gained full approval from lawmakers.

“I’ve got some hope that they will at least look at the cigarette tax before the end of the week, that’s another $71 million,” Tomblin said.

Tomblin proposed a 45-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. The Senate approved a $1.00 hike. The House Finance Committee killed the bill last week. The committee is expected to discuss the House budget Tuesday, which will likely lean toward more spending cuts and a proposal to take up to $100 million out of the Rainy Day Fund, according to Finance Committee Chair Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha). That’s a non-starter with Tomblin.

“That (the Rainy Day Fund) is not for ongoing expenses. If you take money out of the Rainy Day Fund you are just kicking the can down the road,” the governor said Monday.

The regular legislative session ends at midnight Saturday. Next week’s extended session is for budget negotiations. Tomblin said if those negotiations aren’t going anywhere by Wednesday he may exercise his option to have the budget discussions happen later.

“I’ll meet with legislative leaders (and make a decision),” he said.

The last time lawmakers were sent home without completing a budget was 2009 when then Gov. Joe Manchin waited to see now much Stimulus Fund money the state would receive.

Tomblin spoke with county leaders Monday afternoon in Charleston about the state’s financial information.

“With just days left until the end of the session, I remain concerned about the stability of our state’s budget,” Tomblin tweeted. “I encourage the Legislature to pass my proposal that uses no money from the Rainy Day Fund, includes no additional across-the-board cuts.”

On the Senate passed bill to raise taxes and fees to pay for road repairs, Tomblin said.

“I am concerned that dedicating sales tax revenue from auto-related purchases would leave a shortfall in the General Revenue Fund,” he tweeted.