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Justice’s ‘turn-the-corner’ budget proposes pay raises, new spending


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Following years of budget deficits and mid-year spending cuts, the Justice administration Wednesday unveiled a $4.35 billion “turn-the-corner” general revenue budget for 2018-19, with $135 million of increased spending for tourism, economic development and social services — and the first across-the-board pay raises for teachers and public employees in four years.

Unlike last year, when Justice proposed $400 million of tax hikes to close massive budget shortfalls — a plan summarily rejected by the Republican-controlled Legislature — his 2018-19 budget proposal includes no tax increases.

Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy noted during the annual budget briefing Wednesday that, a year ago, the administration was facing a $217 million shortfall for the last six months of the 2016-17 budget year, along with a nearly $500 million deficit in the 2017-18 budget.

“Tonight is an exciting night,” he said. “There’s a lot of hope out there. A lot of optimism.”

State revenue collection is up 5.7 percent this budget year, spurred by a 60 percent jump in natural gas prices, stabilization of coal markets and modest growth in private-sector employment, led by a jump in construction jobs.

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