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West Virginia raises revenue projections


The Intelligencer and Wheeling New-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Budget talks continued quietly behind closed doors at the State Capitol in Charleston on Tuesday as lawmakers learned West Virginia’s projected deficit for next year may now be $170 million less than they were initially informed.

West Virginia Delegate Erikka Storch, seated, speaks with Delegates Ralph Rodighiero, D-Logan, center, and Gary Howell, R-Mineral, during Tuesday’s floor session.
(Photo by Perry Bennett/West Virginia Legislative Photography)

The office of Gov. Jim Justice has revised projected revenues for 2018 up from $4.055 billion to $4.225 billion. Justice’s most recent spending proposal for next year is set at $4.35 billion.

Based on those projections, legislators now face a shortfall of about $125 million instead of dealing with a deficit of about $295 million.

State officials attribute about $40 million of the $170 million increase to actions taken this year by lawmakers during the regular session, such as passage of a Workers Compensation Fund redirection and the increase in wholesale liquor tax.

But the bulk of the surge in revenue — equaling about $100 million — stems from improvement in energy markets and increased severance tax projections, according to the figures.

“The question has been asked of me, ‘Where’s the money going to come from?” Justice said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “The money is already coming. We’re going to see an increase in severance tax — long ago I said that. People almost started laughing. Are you kidding? We have been so deprived and depressed for so long. Do you believe such an absurd thought? It’s what’s happening. … It is better.”

Justice, though, cautioned the projected revenue won’t materialize unless proposed revenue producing mechanisms presently before the Legislature are set in place.

“The amount of severance dollars we are gaining … is still nowhere close to getting us remotely out of this mess.”

Justice called for lawmakers to be “accountable” for their actions as they continue debate on next year’s budget.

Tuesday marked the 11th day of a special session focusing on the budget for House members, and the 10th day for Senate members.

The Senate convened briefly at 10 a.m., just long enough to adjourn until 10 a.m. today as they await further action by the House.

The House session began with a young musician playing a fiddle and filling the chamber with sounds of “Country Roads” and “Amazing Grace.”

House members made announcements, and Finance Committee members were told there would be private meetings in the chairman’s office — with Republicans coming in first and Democrats second.

Members also were informed of a “barbecue caucus” that was to convene immediately after the session, which began just before lunch at 11 a.m.

The House adjourned until 1 p.m. today.

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