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WV Legislature Passes Budget, But Veto Possible

West Virginia lawmakers have passed a budget, but it may not resolve the state's fiscal crisis. (West Virginia State Legislature)
West Virginia lawmakers have passed a budget, but it may not resolve the state's fiscal crisis. (West Virginia State Legislature)
June 3, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Legislature has passed a budget, but it may be headed for a veto.

A contentious special session resulted Thursday in a series of party-line votes. The GOP-backed budget would spend more than 20 percent of West Virginia's rainy-day fund, and includes no new revenue. Democratic lawmakers have said they oppose it, and have argued that it won't solve the state's fiscal crisis.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said the plan relies too heavily on one-time money, won't be signed by the governor and doesn't invest in long-term needs.

"It may be the easy way out of town. It doesn't solve West Virginia's structural budgetary problems," he said. "We have problems in our state with workforce development, roads, infrastructure, education. It doesn't move us forward. It keeps us at the status quo and going backwards."

Republican lawmakers have described the budget as necessary to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has threatened to veto any spending plan that relies too heavily on funds from the state's rainy-day savings account. The Republican majority rejected increases in the sales tax and tobacco taxes.

Senate Judiciary chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, argued that the budget they finally came to reaches balance -- in part, through steep reductions in spending.

"Embodied in this bill is more than $100 million in cuts to various departments and operations of the government of West Virginia," he said. "Notwithstanding those cuts, this budget fully funds the essential operations of state government."

The budget now goes to Tomblin's desk. If he vetoes it, lawmakers probably will have to come back to the Capitol, since the state Constitution requires them to pass a balanced spending plan.

More details are online at the Legislature's website, legis.state.wv.us.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV