CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Leading lawmakers expressed concern Wednesday night after learning Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed using nearly $84 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help balance the budget next fiscal year.
The governor didn’t specifically mention the plan during his State of the State Address but it has been revealed in budget briefings. This will mark the first time money has been taken from the reserve fund to meet regular budget needs. In the past it has been used only to help pay for natural disasters.
“We’ve got to be very careful about it. I’m not sure that we need to really dip into that particular fund. I’ve got to look at that very seriously,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Roman Prezioso said.
The fund currently has a balance of more than $900 million. Tomblin administration officials said the $84 million is needed to cover the increasing cost of Medicaid.
Senate President Jeff Kessler appeared more open to the possibility as a “bridge the gap” method, though stipulating it must be repaid quickly.
“I don’t want to open it up and turn on the spigots and say, ‘Empty the pool,’” Kessler said.
House of Delegates Minority Leader Tim Armstead, who’s concerned about the proposal, contended there’s excess in the budget that can be cut to make up the difference.
“Before we start using the funds that we have reserved for crises and unexpected events in our state to fill budget holes, we really need to take our budget from step one and start looking at ways we can be more efficient,” Armstead said.
The House and Senate finance committees are expected to fully discuss the proposal in the coming weeks.