CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says West Virginia’s next governor will have to raise taxes.
“My opinion is there is not enough money unless a governor wants to come in and cut complete departments or complete programs out,” Tomblin said during a recent appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
The state’s budget woes of recent years have been well-documented with the significant downturn in coal and the glut of natural gas creating record-low prices. Tomblin has responded with spending and hiring freezes along with $400 million in budget cuts in recent years. The next move, which will made by the next governor and legislature, will have to look for new revenue sources, according to Tomblin.
“It’s going to be hard to make it without some additional revenues (tax increases). There’s nothing that absolutely stops a legislature from down the road, two years or three years, from lowering those taxes,” Tomblin said.
Tomblin proposed a telecommunications tax in this year’s State of the State Address. The six percent tax would have brought in $60 million annually but it never got a serious look from legislative leaders. Tomblin’s also talked about an increase in the sales tax. The increase in the tobacco tax was the only tax increase to pass earlier this year.
The leading candidates for governor, Democrat Jim Justice and Republican, state Senate president, Bill Cole, have had to answer the budget question on the campaign trail. Justice has ruled out tax increases and further budget cuts, predicting during the last debate a coal comeback will help in the early days of his administration. Cole hasn’t ruled out any options for balancing the budget.
Tomblin, who has endorsed Justice, said last week it might be possible for the fortunes of natural gas and coal to turn but it won’t be an immediate revenue increase for the state.
“It’s going to be hard to make it up that quickly. I just think you can continue to cut but I think the amount of money that’s needed to satisfy the state’s obligations cannot be met by simply making cuts,” Tomblin said, adding the legislature found out earlier this year that further cuts will be difficult.
“People may talk around and say it’s easy but if you look back at this past legislative session, the extended session, it was much harder for the legislature to make those cuts than they originally intended,” Tomblin said.