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W.Va. lawmakers OK budget bill with reduced cuts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislators closed out the first regular session of the 82nd West Virginia Legislature on Wednesday, approving a 2015-16 budget bill that includes $4.3 billion in spending from tax revenue while also continuing to correct an upsurge of bills vetoed for technical errors.

The budget bill (HB2016) takes $22.7 million from the state’s “Rainy Day” reserve fund to balance the budget, but it also partially restores several spending cuts Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin had proposed.

That includes reducing a proposed $12 million cut in higher education funding to about $4.6 million. It also reduces proposed cuts to Health Right free clinics, as well as domestic-violence prevention programs and veterans’ programs, while providing an additional $4 million for the State Police forensics lab.

The House passed the bill 84-12, while the Senate approved it 25-8, wrapping up a four-day extended session to complete the state spending plan.

Also Wednesday, the Legislature took up veto messages and corrected six bills that Tomblin had vetoed for technical errors — amid complaints that the governor has been unusually harsh in finding errors in bills this session.

Meanwhile, House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said West Virginia’s budget outlook should begin to improve after the coming year, as this budget could be the last that will have to commit $350 million annually to pay off what was a $3 billion unfunded liability for Workers’ Compensation benefits…

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