CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Republican leaders in the House and Senate held a press conference Monday to outline their proposal for a budget they say will not exceed revenue estimates of about $4 billion and promised to have a final budget document ready before the close of the 60-day regular session.
“Like it or not we were given a revenue estimate of 4.05,” House Majority leader Del. Daryl Cowles (R, Morgan) told Hoppy Kercheval during MetroNews “Talkline” Tuesday.
With a roughly $500 million shortfall in the fiscal year 2017-2018 budget, Cowles said lawmakers cannot simply go to the easy answer of increasing taxes this time.
“We owe it to the citizens to do everything we can to try to be more efficient, to try to get a good value for every tax dollar,” he said.
State Senator John Unger (D, Berkeley), who was not at the press conference, said he likes the idea of living within our means.
He said the issue now may be trying to find a real compromise with both Democratic Gov. Jim Justice and Republican lawmakers holding press conferences and making promises.
“It’s almost like drawing a line in the sand,” Unger said during “Panhandle Live” on MetroNews affiliate WEPM. “It starts decreasing options.”
Unger said the only budget on the table right now is from the governor, pointing out that Republicans did not actually put forward a budget bill Monday.
Unger said he is cautiously optimistic at this point, but wants to see where big cuts will be made.
Lawmakers say at least $150 million will come from the Department of Health and Human Resources, Higher Education and k-12.
Unger said he’s not comfortable with that.
“I think we could be more efficient, of course, but these are our children that are actually our future of West Virginia. Our investment. I’m very nervous about that.”
Republicans said they have identified about $278 million in budget measures that will make up the difference between their proposal and Justice’s proposed budget of $4.5 billion.