Latest News, WVPA Sharing

WV budget bill comes down to the wire

By Phil Kabler

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With the legislative countdown clock clicking down to its final hours tonight, West Virginia House and Senate leadership was negotiating Friday evening in hopes of coming up with a compromise between the House’s $4.24 billion budget bill and the Senate’s no-tax $4.102 billion option that makes major cuts to higher education, public education and health programs.

“We’re trying to see if we can get some kind of level of agreement where we don’t have to end up in conference,” Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said Friday.

In addition to trying to close the $138 million gap between the two spending plans, Carmichael said leadership in both houses is trying to come up with a compromise bill to raise revenue.

The House of Delegates narrowly passed a proposal to raise $137 million in new revenue by eliminating sales tax exemptions in existing law for telecommunications services, a number of personal services, and some business-to-business transactions (SB 484).

The Senate has a much more dramatic proposal, which would lower state income tax rates, shifting the revenue burden to sales taxes, raising the sales tax to 7 percent, as well as enacting a 3.5 percent sales tax on groceries, which are tax-exempt, to raise $450 million in new revenue for the 2017-18 budget.

Carmichael said the need for revenue has become more intense with the defeat of a bill to repeal the Racetrack Modernization Fund, which would have provided $9 million for the budget, and the likely demise of a bill to shift about $78 million in public school funding to counties through increased property tax assessments.

Also, legislators are expecting that Gov. Jim Justice will announce today that he is vetoing a bill to eliminate an annual $15 million state subsidy for greyhound racing purses, with $13 million of that funding currently built into balancing the legislative budget bills.

“We’re looking at $100 million,” Carmichael said of the new holes in the budget plans.

Looming over the process is the likelihood that Justice — who favors a $4.394 billion budget bill that would minimize program cuts imposed in the legislative bills and would fund programs he says will help grow the state economy — will veto whatever version of the legislative budget bills reaches his desk.

“That’s an expectation, but maybe not if we can work out a compromise,” Carmichael said of a Justice veto.

If that happens, Justice would have to call the Legislature back in special session to complete a 2017-18 budget bill some time before the start of the new budget year, on July 1.

Last year, the Legislature spent 17 days meeting in special session over the course of two months to resolve that budget impasse, something Carmichael said he hopes to avoid this year.

“We’re not going to hang around here and try to work out a budget while we’re burning through taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Last year’s special session cost about $600,000.

Carmichael said that, if a special session is necessary, he wants to see an agreement worked out before the Legislature is called back into session.

Reach Phil Kabler at [email protected], 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

– See more at:

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address