CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates Finance Committee made a late night move Monday to restore proposed budget cuts to several state programs by taking money from state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s Consumer Protection Fund.
The proposal, which totals $12 million, came in the form of an originating bill at the end of a long day for the committee. The bill was not on the meeting’s original agenda. (see details of bill below)
The fund has a $19 million balance. It finances the Consumer Protection Division, which has an operating budget of $4.1 million. It also pays for consumer restitution. The House bill, plus a bill that passed the Senate Monday taking another $5 million from the fund to plug state budget holes, would reduce the fund to less than $3 million.
“We are decimating the Consumer Protection Fund,” Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, said. “We are doing this at 10 o’clock without the attorney general being invited.”
But Del. Kevin Craig, D-Cabell, countered the fund’s balance is too high.
“There’s no reason to have a balance of 19 million dollars,” Craig said. “We aren’t trying to limit the attorney general, but these are quality programs.”
Several programs to be funded are related to health care including the program for seniors that allows them to remain in their homes. Finance Committee Chair Brett Boggs, D-Braxton, has previously stated funding the program is a top priority.
Del. Bob Ashley, R-Roane, said providing the programs funding for one year wasn’t really dealing with the funding problem. He also questioned the motivation for the bill.
“This is a charade. We are putting out false hope. Let the attorney general do his job,” Ashley said. He later voted in favor of the bill.
Reducing the Consumer Protection Division below its $4.1 million annual operating cost could force program changes.
The House of Delegates passed a bill earlier this session that would take some powers away from the attorney general. The bill has yet to be taken up in the Senate.
Finance Committee Vice Chair Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell, reminded committee members they’ve voted in favor of taking money from other funds in this tight budget year.
The vote in favor of the bill was 14-9 with all Democrats voting for the measure and one Republican, Del. Ashley. All nine votes against it were from Republicans. The bill now goes to the House floor for consideration.
BUDGET ANALYST: Will Laird
ATTORNEY: Mark McOwen
House Bill Originating
General Revenue Funds
SHORT TITLE: Expiring funds to the unappropriated surplus balance in the State Fund, General Revenue and making supplementary appropriations to various accounts.
DATE: March 3, 2014
REFERENCE: FY 2014 Budget Act
FISCAL NOTE: $12,000,000
OTHER COMMITTEE REFERENCE AND/OR ACTION: None
The Purpose of this bill is to:
• Expire funds in the amount of $12,000,000 from the Attorney General – Consumer Protection Recovery Fund to the unappropriated surplus balance in the State Fund General Revenue and appropriates the same as follows:
• West Virginia Development Office
- Regional Contracting Assistance Center $ 166,785
• State Board of Education
- 21st Century Innovation Zones 400,000
• Education and the Arts – Office of the Secretary
- Reconnecting McDowell – Save the Children 500,000
• Education and the Arts – Library Commission
- Grants to Public Libraries 860,057
• DHHR – Division of Health – Central Office
- Safe Drinking Water Program 2,000,000
• DHHR – Division of Human Services
- Family Resource Networks 150,464
- Domestic Violence Legal Services Fund 30,000
- In-Home Family Education 250,000
- Grants for Licensed Domestic Violence
Programs and Statewide Prevention 357,900
- Children’s Trust Fund 80,000
• MAPS – Division of Justice and Community Services
- Child Advocacy Centers 111,908
• Bureau of Senior Services
- Transfer to Division of Human Services for Health Care
And Title XIX Waiver for Senior Citizens 6,692,866
• WV Council for Community and Technical College Education
- West Virginia Advance Workforce Development 400,000
GRAND TOTAL $ 12,000,000