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Senate Finance Committee presented with leadership budget


West Virginia Public Broadcasting

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senators on the chamber’s Finance Committee were given their first look at the body’s proposed budget bill Monday, April 3, which the chamber’s finance chairman says relies almost solely on cuts to find a balance.

This Senate budget largely relies on cutting all state agencies across the board by 4 percent, but zeroing out some programs altogether.

Public education does not receive the standard cut. State funding is reduced by $79 million in the Senate version, which comes after the passage of another budget bill in the chamber last week. That bill cuts state funding and raises local property taxes to keep county school systems whole, but gives them the option to roll back those rates.

Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said Monday before the presentation that the cuts to the Department of Health and Human Resources are the most significant because programs within the department, like Medicaid, are often matched by federal funding. DHHR, he said, will likely be reduced by more than $100 million in funding because of the loss of matching funds.

At the beginning of the session, Hall split his committee into workgroups to go over agency budgets in detail with their leaders. But Hall says this budget is not the result of that work.

“Actually, it was put together by the (Senate) President and it’s come to the committee. It’s a caucus position,” he said. “There was another budget worked on, but this is caucus position.

“It’s basically reflective of the President and the leadership in terms of having a budget that tries not to spend any more than we take in.”

Hall said it is still possible lawmakers could meet their self-imposed 60-day deadline to pass a budget bill, even though the budget proposals from the House and Senate look nothing alike.

Passing a budget by Saturday, the final day of the regular legislative session, would avoid the extended budget session that’s typical for lawmakers who meet in a conference committee to negotiate a final spending plan.

“You don’t have to go to conference,” Hall said Monday. “You usually do, but you don’t have to, and my sense would be that if we’re not that far apart in terms of our budget document that we would just amend one, accept the amendments and not go to conference. I hope that’s what happens.”

Hall expects to present the budget bill to the full chamber in detail on Wednesday.

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