A column by Phil Kabler, statehouse reporter for the Charleston Gazette-Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With the defeat of the governor’s tobacco tax proposal (SB 420) in the House of Delegates, a budget impasse is looking all but inevitable, along with the likelihood the Legislature will leave Charleston in mid-March with the state budget bill in limbo.
Through a combination of ideology, obstinacy and chronically poor time management, it is likely the Legislature will run out of time without figuring out how to close the remaining $170 million funding gap in the 2016-17 budget.
Both of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s revenue measures have been shot down, including a 6 percent sales tax on telecommunications services that most states currently collect. Those two measures would have raised $60 million. Also rejected was the tobacco tax that would have raised $78 million under the governor’s 45-cent increase, or closer to $120 million with the Senate’s proposal for a $1-a-pack hike.
With no new revenue, and near certainty Tomblin will veto any attempts by the Legislature to raid the Rainy Day fund to close the gap, those hypothetical budget cuts that House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, asked agencies to provide to the Legislature earlier in the session aren’t looking so hypothetical any more.
Legislators who believe state government is too big and must be cut may now get to decide which programs are shuttered and which employees are laid off…