CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The budget numbers are not adding up for Senate Finance Committee Chair Roman Prezioso (D-Marion, 13) who sees much more demand for state dollars than what West Virginia has now and in the coming year.

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Roman Prezioso (D-Marion, 13)

“You either have to raise some revenues or you’re going to have to go deeper in this budget to make some cuts,” said Prezioso.  “And, right now, I’ve got a 15 minute revolving door in this office of people coming in and saying, ‘Please restore our budget.  Please restore our budget.’”

When the next fiscal year begins in July, FY 2015, it will be the second consecutive year of 7.5 percent budget reductions for some state agencies; but, Prezioso said, even those cuts may not be enough.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s financial team has used a combination of those cuts and one-time dollars, including an $84 million dip into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, to fill a projected $265 million dollar budget hole and balance the $4.7 billion dollar budget for 2015.  Up to now, the Rainy Day Fund, which contains $920 million total, has not been used to pay for regular ongoing state expenses.

Tomblin has also proposed sweeping a number of state accounts for more than $60 million  About $39 million of that total would come from lottery revenues — cutting into money that usually goes to cities, counties, infrastructure and greyhound breeders.

Prezioso said Tomblin’s balanced budget depends on passage of six different proposed bills before the close of the 2014 Regular Legislative Session on March 8 and, as of Monday, he was not optimistic about the chances for all of those proposals.  Failure for any part would require additional revenues to be found elsewhere.

“We’re just trying to hold our own right now and get through this year in budget,” Prezioso said, on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” about the budget balancing act.

To sufficiently address the budget needs, he said he would support raising the state sales tax from six percent to seven percent, while adding as much as $1 to the state tax on a pack of cigarettes.  West Virginia’s current cigarette tax is 55 cents.

“I think people would understand the dire straits that we’re in, for the next two years, (it) would help us to restore some of those budget cuts and get us through the next two years and, hopefully, the economy is going to turn around on us,” argued Prezioso.

However, he admitted tax increases are an especially tough sell in this election year.  “Nobody wants to say the ‘T’ word,” said Prezioso.  “People need to put aside our political differences and let’s start doing the right thing and make the tough decisions and get through this thing.”

The end of the 60-day session, which comes in less than three weeks, will be followed by a week long budget session at the State Capitol focused on approval for the FY 2015 budget.

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Comments

  • john

    Your comment is about like your spelling, as it lacks in quality....Yes, its true the Governor and his family can invest in dog racing, or anything else, but not with my tax dollars when it comes to simple priorities, such as feeding and caring for seniors. Remember tax dollars belong to each and every one of us taxpayers, not just a select few. Common sense should prevail once in a while. And if you think for one minute that they do not profit from racing proceeds, then I feel sorry for you.

  • Kelly

    The governor and his family have every right to invest in dog racing. You act like he and his allies were steering monies earmarked for senior and other programs to dog racing. It is not like his family profit froms it.

  • Bureaucrat

    How about we cut out about seven layers of bureaucracy at DHHR? The field offices cannot get anything done because of the hundreds of administrators at the Diamond building. If we had a little more service, and a little less enforcement we might actually help someone.

  • Zeb

    So if they're having trouble meeting the state budget now, exactly how do they think they're going to pay for the medicaid expansion that's resulting from our so-called governor going along with the federal takeover of healthcare. Sure, federal pays for it now, but over the next several years, that cost all gets shifted to the states who opted to go along with it. If they think there are budget problems now, then they've got a rude awakening coming.

  • Brian

    BTW, raising taxes before making permanent cuts out of ridiculous social programs is bull$&!+. Only government can give itself a raise anytime it so chooses, if only the rest of us were so lucky!

  • Brian

    What is the job of our elected leaders if not to make decisions on what bills to pass and how to pay for it? Cut, cut, cut! Get rid of ridiculous social program pork as most comments here reflect. Add term limits everywhere in our government if any real meaningful change are to happen.

  • Jason

    “And, right now, I’ve got a 15 minute revolving door in this office of people coming in and saying, ‘Please restore our budget. Please restore our budget.’”

    The answer to all of those people should be "No." I would have pre-printed cards to hand them just to save time.

  • Gigi

    How about the extensive waste at the Human Rights Commission? What do all those investigators do?

    • Pete

      Eat snacks and drink sodas from CVS at Plaza East. Get their nails done. Drop off their laundry. Come on now, what are you expecting??

  • john

    Subsidies for thoroughbred and greyhound racing total $89.6 million dollars, while proposed cuts to the state's senior programs will be cut $5.1 million dollars. Seems to me that feeding and caring for our senior population, which is on the rise each year, would have some priority over the casinos and race tracks, or could it be that the governor has a vested interest in dog racing??

  • Adam

    What the lawmakers in Charleston don't understand is they don't have a taxing problem, they have a spending problem!

    • Jack

      They have a lack of courage to tackle the 20% of state govt workforce who have do-nothing jobs.

  • Woodchuck0

    Time to go on the government couch.

  • Frank

    And we are giving away health care and all kinds of free goodies to anyone too lazy to work who will just sit at home all day and stir up trouble all night. It is not that hard Sen Prezioso. Cut the massive spending on Medicare, cell phones, food stamps, housing, and an array of other Obama subsidies, and when these people start paying income tax from their wages the bottom line will look much better.

    • Chick

      You're right. There isn't much incentive to work any more.

  • Indpendent View

    Let's me see if I can get my mind wrapped around these proposals to raise the state sales tax, tax cigrettes a dollar more, "sweep" state budgets for transfers, force state agencies to take a 7.5% budget cut, raid the Rainy Day Fund--again, yet, all the while teachers are going to get a $1,000 across the board raise?
    Does not compute!