UPDATE: W.Va. House and Senate agree on budget bill

Published: Jun. 13, 2017 at 10:03 PM EDT
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UPDATE 6/16/17 @ 10:45 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WV MetroNews) -- West Virginia's new budget might not be beautiful, but legislators have finally agreed on it.

The state Senate voted 19-8 Friday night to pass a $4.225 billion budget that limited cuts to Medicaid and higher education through use of transfers and expected surpluses.

The House of Delegates then voted 64-25 in favor of the budget bill about 10 p.m. after more than an hour of debate.

What remained in this saga was for the Senate to officially receive the House's message, for the House to pass a Parkways bill tied to revenue estimates and for the governor to decide whether he will accept the budget.

"We've won the day for the most part on the budget," Cowles, R-Morgan, said during a floor debate.

That capped a budget battle that bubbled up during last fall's gubernatorial election, flowed through the 60-day regular legislative session, and then went into a 20-day stop-and-go special session, where the governor sometimes acted as mediator and sometimes as instigator.

The bill did not include the personal income tax cuts that Senate Republicans have been advocating for months.

It also did not take into account any measures to raise additional revenue.

Explaining the bill, Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall said it was not a thing of beauty. But Hall said it was about as good as the Legislature was going to be able to do while up on deadline for a new fiscal year.

"This is a balanced budget, constitutionally, maybe it's tight," said Hall, R-Putnam.

Legislators several times have said Monday is the deadline for to have a new budget in place and ensure agencies can make the next payroll.

Before the budget and revenue bills become law, Gov. Jim Justice must sign off on them.

UPDATE 6/16/17 @ 4:35 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia's House has voted to quickly ramp up road repairs and reconstruction across the state supported by a higher gasoline tax, raised sales tax on car sales and higher motor vehicle fees.

The bill approved 59-32 on Friday is expected to raise more than $100 million a year.

It would also support bonding for Gov. Jim Justice's proposed highway rebuilding program, an economic stimulus proposal that requires voter approval.

The variable minimum wholesale gas tax would rise 3.5 cents a gallon, the vehicle sales tax increase from 5 to 6 percent and the annual vehicle registration fee rise from $30 to $40.

The Senate passed similar legislation.

However, the House version has lower tax and fee increases.

The differences have to be reconciled.

It could take effect July 1.

UPDATE 6/15/17 @ 11:25 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia Senate has passed two bills that make a full tax reform and budget package for Fiscal Year 2018.

On Thursday night, senators stayed late to pass senate bills 1017 and 1018.

Senate bill 1017 provides a reduction of the personal income tax by 5 percent per year for four years, providing there are certain economic triggers met.

The bill also phases out the income tax on Social Security for individuals makes less than $75,000. It exempts the military retirement from personal income tax, increases the personal income tax exemption to $2,500 for individuals with incomes of less than $50,000 and authorizes rebates of 2016 personal income tax of $150 for individuals with less than $10,000 of income and $100 for individuals with between $10,000 and $25,000 of income.

The bill also increases the amount of credit allowed against personal and corporation net income taxes for qualified building rehab expenditures from 10 to 25 percent.

"It has taken a tremendous amount of hard work and compromise from our Senators to come to this moment," Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said. "Throughout the session, we spent countless hours presenting our plan to Governor Justice and our fellow legislators, and I am thankful the Governor has truly come to realize the benefits of the Senate's position. I sincerely hope that the House of Delegates will fully consider everything this proposal has to offer, and see that in this version, we've truly provided a framework for success and benefit to those West Virginians who need it most."

Senate Bill 1018 provides a $4.349 billion general revenue budget. The bill passed by a vote of 29-2. This bill includes a 2 percent teacher pay raise, $15 million to the Save Our State fund, no cuts to medicaid's medical services line and some cuts to higher education.

"This most recent budget, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, protects our most critical services while doing its part to control government spending," Senate President Carmichael said. "I am confident that this budget will provide the state with the stability it needs for the next fiscal year, and will put us in position to continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently. Most importantly, it does as we promised: It keeps spending in line, and it lays a foundation for growth and change."

Both bills have been sent to the House. They will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday.

UPDATE 6/15/17 @ 9 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Gov. Jim Justice has proposed a revised tax plan to limit state budget cuts, and the Senate has passed the measure.

The Democratic governor and Republican senators say the latest proposal Thursday would cut income tax rates initially 5 percent, while also authorizing West Virginians in the two lowest tax brackets to get rebate checks of $150 or $100.

It would raise the sales tax from 6 to 6.5 percent initially and establish tiered coal production tax rates.

That proposal follows the impasse reached Tuesday by House and Senate negotiators over proposed tax revisions to raise revenue.

Each house then adopted budgets that would cut funding for education and Medicaid deeper than Justice wants.

Thursday night, the Senate began advancing another budget without Medicaid cuts and 4 percent cuts for state universities.

UPDATE 6/14/17 @11:55 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- With time until a potential government shutdown running out, West Virginia Senators are in position to send a budget bill to the Governor's desk with a single vote.

Wednesday, the House of Delegates amended and passed a budget bill born in the Senate. Now, that bill is back in its original chamber, albeit with some major changes.

"We're gonna have to look through this budget with a fine-tooth comb," Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns (R-Ohio, 01) said. "There's a lot to it."

Hoping to review the changes in more detail, Senators voted to adjourn until noon Thursday, when discussions will resume.

According to a press release from the House of Delegates, the latest version of the budget lowers major cuts to higher education and Medicaid; proposed in the Senate's original bill.

"They did it with close to $52 million of one-time money," Senator Ferns said. "I, personally, am not comfortable with it."

In addition to shuffling surpluses, Senator Ferns says the bill assumes $130 million of extra revenue will become available; courtesy of a roads plan that hasn't passed the House yet, however, a vote is expected tomorrow.

"There are certain areas that have to be cleaned up," Senator Ferns said. "Some things that we don't think are correct."

Senator Ferns says this version of the budget would cut extra from the Department of Education, the fairs and festivals budget, library budgets and more.

The bill does not include teacher pay raises, but it doesn't raise taxes either.

Senator Ferns says it's likely lawmakers will need to make more amendments before a budget bill passes both chambers. But, other senators say, now is the best time to get a budget passed.

"One-hundred-plus days we've been at it and we still don't have a budget," Senator Mike Romano (D-Harrison, 12) said. "Get a budget done, please, I implore you."

Governor Jim Justice says he needs to approve a budget by Monday, June 19.

UPDATE 6/14/17 @ 4 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia House has passed the budget bill.

Senate Bill 1013 was passed by the House 69-30 Wednesday afternoon.

The bill will now go back to the Senate for agreement and will then head to Gov. Jim Justice to be signed into law.

The Senate passed their version of the bill late Tuesday night.

A state budget has to be passed by July 1 for the fiscal year to prevent a government shutdown.


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WV MetroNews) -- The state Senate, in a party-line vote, passed a $4.225 billion budget bill Tuesday night.

The House of Delegates is now poised to pass a budget bill on Wednesday, although the House could make some changes. Both are up against a deadline to pass a state budget before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Meanwhile, a furlough bill that would give the governor flexibility in times of financial crisis has been sent to conference committee to work out differences between what passed the House and Senate.

The Senate version of the budget bill passed 22-12 on Tuesday evening, with all Democrats voting against it and all Republicans present voting in favor.

The Senate’s bill would cut about $33 million from the state’s higher education system, although it spares Shepherd University and BlueRidge Community and Technical College from additional cuts.

It also cuts $34 million in state Medicaid funding that would be subject to a 3-to-1 federal match — meaning $136 million in total funding would be sacrificed.

The budget bill benefited from the Justice administration agreeing to raise revenue estimates for the coming fiscal year to $4.225 billion — an increase credited to improving energy markets and the governor’s belief that massive highways construction will boost the state economy.

That meant the bill does not rely on Rainy Day funding. It also spares some state programs such as Medicaid assistance to the developmentally-impaired, fairs and festivals, public broadcasting and the Women’s Commission.

Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, who fielded a lot of questions from Democrats, said the Republican caucus had wanted to include personal income tax reductions within the framework of a balanced budget.

When that failed to gain broader support, Ferns said, the Senate Republicans fell back on their second goal of holding spending within the state funding currently available.