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Governor’s budget dips into Rainy Day Fund

By Pamela Pritt

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Polar vortex? It might be cold outside, but the economic forecast is, it’s raining in West Virginia.

Bob Kiss, secretary of the Department of Revenue, said the governor’s budget will include a one-time appropriation from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Kiss said $83.8 million from that fund will be moved to Medicaid.

The secretary said the transfer — one piece of $148 million in one-time appropriations — is not because of Medicaid expansion, which the Legislature approved last year. Expansion of Medicaid is “paid for entirely by the federal government for the first few years,” Kiss said.

Kiss said the budget is austere, and the next couple of years will be tight fiscally. But, he said, the state is far better off than it was in 1989 because of the nearly $1 billion in the Rainy Day Fund now in place and fully funded. The fund has never before been accessed for revenue stabilization.

“We’re not going to be able to do some of the things we might want to do,” Kiss said. “We need to continue to be austere; we need to continue to be prudent. And we believe accessing the Rainy Day Fund does not jeopardize the economic progress the state has made, nor does it jeopardize the way financial analysts view the state.”

The Rainy Day Fund, 22 percent of the general budget, is funded automatically; half of all surpluses go to the fund. Kiss said West Virginia is one of the few states to do this.

The budget does provide a 2 percent raise for teachers and a $504 annual raise for state employees. Also, the budget does not call for teacher or state employee layoffs or furloughs. Teachers and other state workers last got a raise in 2012…

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