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Tensions, tempers rise in WV budget deliberations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nine amendments to the House budget bill that would have raided money from higher education institutions from around the state caused such a stir on the House floor Thursday evening that Speaker Tim Armstead felt compelled to leave his podium and address the body from his seat.

The amendments, which were offered by Delegates Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, and Ray Canterbury, R-Greenbrier, and were subsequently withdrawn, would have taken more than $51 million from eight colleges and universities, including WVU-Tech’s $7.9 million, which left the state’s contribution to Tech at $0.

During the initial debate, which would have cut Fairmont State University by $15.2 million, House members were emotional and angry over the amendments, goaded by Walters’ and Canterbury’s refusal to answer questions about the amendments.

Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, was incensed by the proposed cuts to the university in his county, which he said was “part of him.” Caputo’s voice was at near echo-level in the chamber as he said Walters and Canterbury “didn’t have the courage” to answer a question about stripping money from a college not in their districts.

Other delegates rose with emotional floor speeches before Armstead left his podium about 40 minutes into the debate. The Speaker said voters will judge lawmakers’ actions.

“They’re going to hold us all accountable, every one of us, if we can’t come together and establish a budget,” Armstead said. “I truly think this is a defining moment…

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