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Senate leadership hopes governor will sign off on budget bill


The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — House and Senate leadership have expressed the hope the governor will not veto the budget bill passed the last day of the legislative session.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said he does anticipate a veto and said if that happens, leadership won’t be starting completely from scratch.

“I hope the governor signs it. I really do,” Carmichael said. “Having said that, if he does not sign it, an alternative will be something we worked on late Saturday evening.”

Saturday night, Gov. Jim Justice announced a possible budget deal with Senate leadership that would include an increase in the sales tax, a commercial activities tax and lowering personal income tax.

However, House of Delegates members said they didn’t know about the deal until the governor’s press conference that night.

Carmichael said there was never an agreement as much as a framework on moving forward with a different budget scenario.

“What it entailed is the governor compromising with the Senate on a tax reform structure because we are unwilling to raise taxes on West Virginians,” Carmichael said. “If we need additional revenue in the state, we must do it through tax reform and not tax increases so that it creates jobs and opportunity in the state.”

Carmichael said the governor had objections to some of the components, but leadership worked with him. He said the compromise was brought to him around 8 p.m. Saturday, but said there were details that needed to be validated first.

“We couldn’t get across the finish line,” he said. “The House needs to be brought into these discussions but because it was presented to us very late, there was just no time at the end of session. There was not time to vet those by the House.”

In a Sunday news release, House Speaker Tim Armstead also urged the governor not to veto the budget, saying the presented budget controls spending in a “living within our means” approach.

The budget passed early Sunday morning includes $4.1 billion in general revenue spending, a reduction to the Department of Health and Human Resources spending line item that leadership said can be flexibly managed by the secretary, no cuts to elderly and disabled waiver programs, and up to $90 million from the Rainy Day Fund.

It also includes 8 percent cuts to Marshall and West Virginia universities, a 2 percent cut to West Virginia State University and Blue Ridge Community Technical College, and 4 percent cuts to all other state higher education institutions. This translates to about a 1 to 2 percent reduction to overall budgets.

The budget passed Sunday did not reflect negotiations between Senate leadership and the governor.

“We passed the budget within 60 days, which hasn’t been done in decades,” Carmichael said. “It’s a responsible budget that controls spending so that we don’t continue to encounter budget shortfalls in the out years. It doesn’t expand spending to the level the governor wants. There are substantial cuts and it lives within our means.”

Carmichael said if a special session is needed, lawmakers won’t have to completely start over.

“It’s his constitutional right to veto it and if he does so, we will come back to the drawing board,” he said. “But we won’t be completely starting over.”

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