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House of Delegates pass budget agreement

From the W.Va. House of Delegates:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The House of Delegates on Thursday voted 60-37 to pass a compromise budget with the Senate, House Bill 101<http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_history.cfm?INPUT=101&year=2016&sessiontype=1X>, with leaders urging Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to approve the bill in order to avert a government shutdown on July 1.

“We have passed a second budget that will ensure that our state avoids a government shutdown and allows us to continue funding essential programs,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha.

“This budget balances the need to maintain important government operations, while not placing any new tax burdens on our already strapped population,” Speaker Armstead said. “More importantly, this budget does not cut the critical services and investments upon which many of our citizens rely, including higher education needs, PROMISE Scholarships and state employees’ health insurance program.”
The $4.088 billion General Revenue Fund budget closes a projected $271 million shortfall with several measures, including roughly $30.5 million in additional ongoing base budget spending cuts, $35.5 million of sweeps of special revenue cash sitting in agency accounts, and the remaining balance from the Revenue Shortfall Reserve Fund, known generally as the Rainy Day Fund.

“While this budget does draw a significant amount from our roughly $800 million Rainy Day Fund, it’s important to remember where that money came from,” Speaker Armstead said. “This fund was largely built up using surplus tax dollars from the past two decades. These are extra tax dollars collected from our hard-working citizens that we saved for use in tough times, just like the harsh economic climate we face today.”

The budget plan does not call for any of the tax increase proposals that had been introduced at the beginning of the special session.

“For months leaders have been working to strike some compromise to meet our needs while trying to find a way to fund our essential government functions,” said House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha. “We have tried to push a number of proposals that could either cut spending, make better use of existing cash, or raise new revenue. Some of those ideas gained traction, but many failed to garner the majority needed to pass. This budget represents the best compromise to ensure we keep our government open and running.”

The House budget features no cuts to higher education institutions, fully funds the PROMISE Scholarship program, and adds the funds needed to avert drastic increases in deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for state employees and retirees enrolled in Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) programs.

“This budget is a reasonable spending plan in the face of the extreme economic challenges we face,” said House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan. “This budget funds our government, keeps our promises, averts a shutdown and brings certainty to our constituents.”

The budget now goes to Gov. Tomblin, who can either sign it, veto it in whole or part, or let it go into law without a signature. House leaders said it is crucial to get this spending plan into law in order to maintain government operations beginning July 1.

“Time is of the essence, and this budget represents the spending plan the majority of the Legislature can pass at this time,” Speaker Armstead said. “I strongly urge Gov. Tomblin to approve this plan so we can keep our government open after June 30 and ease the worry and fears many of our employees, retirees, students and families currently face.”

Following the passage of the budget, the House passed a resolution to adjourn the special session until June 12, which coincides with the interim legislative meetings that were already scheduled for this month.

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