By Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette-Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Sharp downturns in coal exports and natural gas prices, along with court actions halting construction of two major natural gas pipelines, have pushed the 2019-20 West Virginia budget into a deficit early on, Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow told legislators Monday.
Muchow said the budget assumed a 1.2 percent downturn from record tax collection of $4.75 billion in 2018-19, but finished the first two months of the budget year down 6.8 percent from the same point last year.
Muchow blamed the current $49.8 million budget shortfall on a 50 percent drop in coal exports, a 48 percent drop in natural gas prices and the loss of 4,000 gas pipeline construction jobs.
“The energy sector is pretty soft right now,” Muchow told the interim Joint Committee on Finance. …