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Deficit looms over Tomblin’s final State of the State

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Tom Hindman
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Tom Hindman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislators return today, for the second session of the 82nd Legislature, facing uncertainties over West Virginia’s severe budget deficit and control of the Senate.

The 60-day session convenes at noon, and will be highlighted by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s sixth, and presumably final, State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature at 7 p.m.

Looming over the session is a projected $353 million deficit in the 2015-16 budget, caused by ongoing cuts in state business taxes and by an unanticipated plunge in energy prices that has sharply cut state severance tax collections for natural gas, coal and oil.

Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadelman said the governor will address the shortfall, as well as challenges in balancing the 2016-17 state budget.

“He has a responsible plan that continues to pay off the sins of the past, manages our current situation and doesn’t mortgage our future,” Stadelman said.

Tomblin has not indicated if he will propose tax increases to deal with the funding crisis, although in a recent Gazette-Mail interview, the governor said he would be amenable to a “balanced” increase in the state’s tobacco tax…

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