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Concerns on budget voiced in WV Senate

From staff reports

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, raised questions Tuesday about the lack of a legislative alternative to Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed 2017-18 budget, as the 60-day regular session approached the end of its first quarter.

“I’m certain we can agree that going into June, like we did last year, would certainly be unacceptable to the citizens of the state,” Woelfel said in comments on the Senate floor, referring to the 92-day budget impasse in 2016. Legislators passed the 2016-17 budget bill on June 14, just 16 days before the start of the new budget year.

Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said he understood that the Senate Finance Committee has divided into subcommittees to look at budgets of the various state agencies to determine where cuts can be made.

Ferns said he anticipates that the Legislature will act on the 2017-18 budget, which currently has a nearly $500 million shortfall, before the end of the regular session.

However, he told Woelfel, “I don’t think any final decisions have been made on any expenditures or reductions.”

Also Tuesday, the Senate laid over consideration of a bill that would retroactively remove disputed provisions in the state right-to-work law. The law went into effect last July 1, but is currently blocked by a preliminary injunction issued last August in Kanawha Circuit Court (SB 330).

While labor unions are challenging the law, which prohibits requiring workers in union shops to pay union dues, primarily on grounds it amounts to an illegal taking of union assets, the lawsuit also raises issues with two other provisions in the bill: One section appears to exempt building and construction trades, while another section could be interpreted to limit the law to public employees unions.

As drafted, the bill would remove those questionable sections from the law.

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