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WV legislature’s budget conference starts Monday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For House and Senate budget conferees, putting together the 2016-17 state budget will be like assembling a jigsaw puzzle with many of the pieces missing.

Conferees are set to begin meeting on the budget this morning, but, with gaping revenue holes in both the House and Senate versions of the $4.3 billion spending plan, are likely to leave Charleston this week without an agreement.

“We’ve got to get serious about the budget,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Saturday evening, saying he will have to call the Legislature back in special session to resolve the budget impasse.

The Senate plan would balance the budget with $139 million of tax increases — but that revenue doesn’t exist since all the Senate’s tax proposals, including an increase in the state tobacco tax, were shot down in House Finance Committee.

The House would sweep $72 million out of various state agency accounts, but the bill to make those sweeps was never considered in the Senate, over questions of whether agency heads had any input on the cuts, and over concerns that much of the so-called surplus funds may already be committed to projects.

The House also would take $32 million out of the state’s Rainy Day reserve funds to close the budget gap — something Tomblin said Saturday he will veto…

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