Cole wants budget session sooner than later
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews
Leading lawmakers and members of the Tomblin administration met again Monday afternoon in the continuing efforts to reach an agreement on a new state budget.
The difficult job got even tougher last week when lawmakers were told to expect the current budget year’s revenue hole to grow by approximately $100 million.
State Senate President and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole continued to call for a balanced, measured approach to the state’s financial problems during an appearance Monday on MetroNews “Talkline”.
Cole said he felt “fairly confident” the parties were getting closer to agreeing on a plan. He favors a special session before the May 10 Primary Election.
“To allow the ongoing uncertainty for those that are affected is wrong. If we can get this thing done we need to do it now,” Cole said.
Cole added not everything that needs to be done with the state’s finances can be done in a special session.
House of Delegates Finance Committee Chair Eric Nelson indicated Monday on “Talkline” getting agreement in the House needed more work.
“When you have a number of different opinions it becomes a chore to bring everyone together to build a consensus. A consensus the governor can agree to and bring us all in (for a special session),” Nelson said.
The parties involved are still looking at a $270 million hole for next fiscal year’s budget. The 90-90-90 plan would include a cigarette tax increase, budget cuts and taking from the state’s Rainy Day fund.
Everything is on the table, Nelson said. Discussions have started about the possibility of exploring privatization of a handful of the state’s colleges and universities. Nelson is also interested in refinancing the state’s pension debt that this year requires a payment of $470 million.
“Let’s consider potentially refinancing those,” he said. “We’re 20 years into a 40-year deal. Let’s look at refinancing those obligations. We’re much more solid now than we were 20 years ago when those were implemented.”