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WV Senate passes very different budget bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The State Senate passed its version of the budget Thursday afternoon after more than an hour of debate on the floor.

Senate chair of Finance Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said the budget relies on revenue measures that were rejected in the House Finance Committee and does not rely on the Rainy Day Fund.

Hall said the Public Employees Insurance Agency is funded in the budget with $43.5 million, to make up a projected shortfall. The money is distributed to each agency which will pay the premiums.

But Hall already knows that the House of Delegates has rejected the revenue measures passed by the Senate, including hikes on tobacco products, the sales tax, gasoline tax (3 cents a gallon when gas is $2 a gallon or less), Department of Motor Vehicles fees and a recalculation of the privilege tax on new vehicle purchases.

The House version does use $31.7 million in Rainy Day Funds and uses “one time” money that is left over in accounts from the previous year’s budget.

“My hope, maybe my prayer was the House might generate some revenue,” Hall said. “Maybe I didn’t have enough faith.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin called for a three-day special session to end no later than March 15 for lawmakers to agree on a budget.

That may be tough, Hall said.

“When we go over there with an unfunded budget … we will be in a pickle,” he continued.

For Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, “that pickle meant that he could not vote for the bill. Unger called it “fiction…

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