CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Democratic Senator John Unger is asking everyone for help locating the whole Republican budget plan.
“I’ve been asking a lot of people if they have a copy for me to look at,” Unger said at the end of today’s state Senate floor session. “I have not found it yet.”
Unger, who actually serves on the Senate Finance Committee, has risen to his feet and asked the past two days where to find the budget.
His reference point is this past Monday, when the Republican majority in the Legislature released a framework for its budget, emphasizing that it will not exceed the state’s $4.055 billion revenue estimate.
The Republicans specified $277.7 million in budget measures they’ve identified to make up the difference between what they believe there is to spend and Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed $4.505 billion budget.
But they left a big blank.
The Republicans acknowledged their strategy will still mean cutting about $150 million from the big state budget areas of K-12 education, the Department of Health and Human Resources and higher education — but they said the specifics of those cuts will be determined through the normal budgeting process.
So Unger, D-Berkeley, is asking for the answer to what is a legitimate mystery.
Today, his questions were directed at Senate President Mitch Carmichael, a Republican from Jackson County.
“Yesterday I inquired about the Republican budget and I received from your office a press release but I never received a budget,” Unger, rising from his desk, said to Carmichael, who was behind a podium.
Earlier this week, Carmichael appeared on “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval and said the starting point for cuts would be $50 million from DHHR, $50 million from K-12 education and $50 million from higher education.
Unger referenced that comment when he next asked, “When can I get details about all these cuts, but particularly the public education cuts of $50 million to the school aid formula?”
Carmichael responded, “The budget bill is in the process of being produced, and the framework has been released, and we’re prepared to discuss the framework. We’re more than happy to provide the details as it develops.”
Unger then volleyed: “I’m asking you Mr. President, when are we going to get the details? Can you get these to us now?”
Carmichael then informed Unger that as a member of the Finance Committee he should know first-hand what’s going on with the budget process.
“As a member of the finance committee, the budget bill is in the process of being developed and written,” Carmichael said. “You’re on the committee, and you’ll be a part of that process.”
Before he left the chamber, Unger promised to ask for more help finding the GOP budget plan.
“I cannot find a copy of the Republican leadership budget,” he said. :I’m putting up signs: Missing. If found, please let me see it.”
Before the day’s end the signs were up and pleading for information.