CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin used his budget line-item veto power 42 times on the new state budget passed by lawmakers last week and in doing so cut the spending plan by $67 million.
The governor also reduced the amount of money lawmakers approved taking out of the state’s Rainy Day Fund by approximately $21 million. The fund will now be reduced by $100 million instead of $121 million to make the budget balance.
In his veto message, Tomblin said he was not in favor of increased spending.
“We must be committed to fiscal responsibility,” Tomblin said in the message to lawmakers. “And not commit one-time surplus funds to increase on-going spending.”
The governor told reporters Thursday afternoon it was important to keep the amount taken from Rainy Day close to $100 million because of the state’s bond rating.
“We need to keep our bond rating up,” Tomblin said. “The last thing we want to do is overspend the money and watch our bond rating decline like it did back in the 80s.”
The veto message said future budgets would need additional spending cuts or revenue enhancements (tax increases) to keep from going deeper into the Rainy Day Fund, which currently has a balance of more than $900 million. State Senate Finance Committee Chairman Roman Prezioso agreed.
“I’d say you are exactly right. We’re going to have to either enhance some revenues or we’re going to get further into the Rainy Day Fund, which would be disastrous for our bond rating.”
The line item veto was used by Tomblin on dozens of allocations span including funds passed by the legislature for education and senior services. The governor cut the in-home waiver program for seniors by $3.5 million. He said the $16 million he left in the allocation would provide for an additional 335 seniors to be able to stay in their homes.
The new budget takes effect July 1.