CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said in a statement Tuesday Gov. Jim Justice should sign the Legislature’s budget bill for the upcoming fiscal year.
The $4.102 billion budget plan was passed Saturday by the Senate and House of Delegates at the conclusion of the legislative session. It includes no tax increases and $110 million dollars in spending cuts to higher education and the Department of Health and Human Resources.
The higher education cuts include an 8 percent budget reduction at Marshall University and West Virginia University and 4 percent cuts at other state universities. Elderly and disabled waiver programs would not be affected under the budget.
The bill also includes moving $90 million from the state’s Revenue Shortfall Reserve Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, toward closing the current fiscal year’s budget shortfall.
“While I realize this budget is not what the governor wants, I believe it’s a budget that is rooted in reality,” Carmichael said in a statement. “We cannot continue to spend taxpayer dollars at the same level while our revenue collections decrease.”
Carmichael said he is encouraging Justice to sign the legislative budget so conversations can begin on tax reform.
“If we do not fundamentally overhaul the current West Virginia tax structure, our state will continue to face annual budget problems,” he said.
Justice said Saturday his office and Carmichael were close to a budget deal that would have included income tax decreases, a 1 percent increase in the state sales tax, and a 3.5 sales tax on groceries.
“I hope we’re able to continue those discussions and plan a course forward,” Carmichael said. “Our state cannot afford to be weighed down by any economic shackles, and we owe it to the citizens of this state to give real tax reform the consideration and chance it deserves.”
House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, voiced his support for the budget on Saturday, saying Justice’s tax proposals lack public support.
In an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” Tuesday, Justice’s Chief of Staff Nick Casey said the budget does not account for $31 million in spending; Justice vetoed a bill last week aimed at eliminating the $15 million greyhound breeders fund, and the Senate did not take up a House bill that would have eliminated the $9 million racetrack modernization fund.