Legislative Roundup – April 24

Capitol1bCHARLESTON — Both the extended budget session and a special session called by the governor to handle some loose ends left handing at the end of the 60-day regular 2013 session of the West Virginia Legislature were wrapped up quickly here last week.

The special legislative session concluded Thursday, April 18—about 18 hours after it began– when members of the House of Delegates and State Senate completed action on a pair of bills to increase salaries for many of the state’s county magistrates (SB1003) and a supplemental appropriations bill (SB1005).

The state’s 2013-2014 state budget bill ((HB2014) was given final approval last Wednesday, passing the House by a vote of 86-11, and then gaining approval in the senate by a 34-0 vote. It calls for spending of about $4.13 billion of tax revenues along with some $408 million of state Lottery profits.

House Finance Chairman Harry K. White, D-Mingo, said the budget approved is about two percent lower than the current state annual spending plan. It is also about $216 million less than the 2010-2011 state budget.

Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said that while the general revenue budget was cut by $1 million,it still provides full funding for pension plans for state and public school employees, as well as for state-funded scholarship programs including the Promise scholarships. It also increases state funding for Medicaid by $142 million to $570 million.

Gov. Tomblin had asked most state agencies to submit budgets with 7.5 percent spending cuts.

Delegate Daryle Cowles, R-Morgan, was one of the 11 members in the House to vote against the budget bill. He said the state budget has misplaced spending priorities and is too dependeng oh gambling revenues.

“We are in a way hooked like a junkie relying on these gamblihng revenues,” he told the other delegates.

Total spending in the state’s new fiscal year budget beginning July 1, including federal funding, the state Road Fund and special revenue, is $11.41 billion.

Also during last week’s special session, Republican members in the House of Delegates temporarily delayed a vote on the magistrate pay raise bill.

“We had a bill dumped in our laps at 4:30 p,m, from the governor that none of us had seen,” said House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha ,explaining why Republicans in the House delayed a vote on the magistrate bill.

But by Thursday morning, “we absolutely felt that everyone was able to look at all the bills overnight abd make an informed decision.”

The magistrate pay raise bill will provide pay raises for 12 magistrates and staffs in six counties this year, and will eliminate a lower $51,125 annual salary for magistrates in another 17 small-population counties in January of 2017. It also calls for a nonpartisan study of ways to equalize caseloads for magistrates.

The pay raise died at the end of the regular 60-day session at midnight on Saturday, April 13 as did a bill the House of Delegates was holding up for leverage. The Senate wanted a bill to provide for a sales tax increment financing dicstrict for a multi-million dollar development outside of Morgantown.

Another bill passed during the special session was HB105 that makes the state tax division responsible for administering sales tax collections ib Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts and in cities that have munilcipal sales taxes through the home-rule pilot project.

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