By JESS MANCINI
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A $4.05 billion budget from the Republican leadership Monday has more support from Wood County legislators than for the governor’s budget.
The budget proposal unveiled Monday from House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Mitch Carmichael has a better chance of passing than the Save Our State budget from Gov. Jim Justice, Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, said.
“Justice’s is DOA,” Azinger said.
It was “absurd” for the governor to have campaigned on a pledge of no tax increases, then propose increases to cover the $450 million in additional spending for 2018 in his budget, Azinger said.
“We’re not spending what we don’t have,” he said.
Armstead and Carmichael released the Republican budget at a press conference Monday afternoon at the Capitol.
Among the key points are the elimination of the greyhound dog racing subsidies and renovation of the casinos, elimination of the $105 million Save Our State Fund, no pay raise for teachers and “smoothing”payments to the Teachers’ Retirement System and continuation of the 2-percent mid-year cuts implemented by former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, among other budget proposals.
“We’re going to live within our means,” said Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants.
The proposal will allow for flexibility and cuts in the departments of Health and Human Resources and education, secondary and higher education, she said.
“I think it’s great,” said Delegate Vernon Criss, R-Wood. “We’re finally getting government under control to live within the means of the funds that we’ve got coming in.”
Criss said the responsibility will be on the various agencies and departments to operate under the amounts appropriated.
“It’s a smart way to do it,” he said.
Talk among lawmakers around the Capitol is Justice will veto any budget that doesn’t include a revenue source or stream, Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, said. Kelly said he didn’t know if the increases on the beer and wholesale liquor in the Republican plan “would be enough to pacify him.”
Kelly, hoping the allocations to fairs and festivals remain in the budget and survive the budget process, expects legislators to be spending a lot of time on the proposal in the coming weeks.
“They put it on the table, so we’re going to talk about it,” he said.
Also on Monday afternoon, Democratic minority leaders in the House and Senate said a group of legislators are in support of Justice’s proposal to cap pay to five days in a special session on the budget.
“We are facing a fiscal crisis and 60 days should be plenty of time to find a solution if we work together and focus on finding solutions we can all support,” Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said.
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