CHARLESTON, W.Va. — All eyes are on the state House of Delegates, which — on the sixth day of a special session meant to determine a state budget — has nothing on the scoreboard but a pair of no votes.
The state Senate has twice passed revenue bills, and, although the specifics of those have come under some criticism, senators felt like they’ve done enough to justify sending most of their body home until the House acts.
So it’s just the House, which gaveled in at 11 a.m. today, with a full plate of uncertainty on the agenda.
The House Finance Committee was set up to take up a revenue bill this afternoon.
“There will be a revenue bill coming through the committee,” Finance Committee Chairman Eric Nelson said late this morning.
“I think the committee members do want to look at the whole bill, have full discussion, much greater discussion,” said Nelson, R-Kanawha.
Calling into Mayor Danny Jones’ radio show on 580 WCHS, Delegate Ron Walters predicted a bill will be passed.
“We’re going to pass something. We’re going to send it over, and let’s see what they do,” Walters, R-Kanawha, said, referring to the Senate.
Walters, like other delegates, noted that an actual budget bill has not been introduced. Instead, lawmakers are dealing with a revenue bill that would be a key part of the budget.
Republicans have complained that means they’re operating in the dark, potentially passing a revenue bill without knowing the nature of the spending in a budget bill.
The House passed two budget bills during the regular session — one that wasn’t accepted by the Senate and another that wound up being vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice, who objected to its cuts and use of the Rainy Day Fund.
House leaders spoke early this week about rolling out their own revenue proposal, either through the House Finance Committee or through a strike-and-insert amendment on the House floor.
“What we intend to do is work that bill and either put in our version or pass our own version — an originated bill,” House Speaker Tim Armstead said on MetroNews’ “Talkline” back on Tuesday.
“There will be action on the proposals, but I think it’s more likely that there will be a modified version that puts in some of what we think should be in it.”
Appearing today on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Delegate Brent Boggs, a Democrat, said he is optimistic about the budget talks at this point.
“I had an excellent conversation this morning with Speaker Armstead, with Chairman Nelson,” said Boggs, D-Braxton. “I’m encouraged. I’m probably more encouraged from this than many of the things.
“When it takes Democrats and Republicans to get a bill out of the House, we need to be included early on.”
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 18, 2017
An originated bill appeared Tuesday morning on a House Finance agenda that was posted online but it disappeared from the hard copy agendas distributed to committee members.
During the first two days of the special session, now going on two weeks ago, Republican delegates first voted down a revenue bill the governor had introduced in the House and the next day voted down a version the Senate passed.
When Gov. Jim Justice addressed the House of Delegates for about 20 minutes late Wednesday afternoon, he wrapped up his talk with one pointed message: Just vote on something.
“So I want you to vote and I want you to do goodness and I want us to go home and quit sitting here on the taxpayer dollars,” Justice said as his conclusion.
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) May 18, 2017
Senate President Mitch Carmichael had a similar message for the House after his Republican colleagues were the driving force behind a 19-11 vote Tuesday evening to approve “The Tax Reform Act of 2017,” the main plank of state budget plan of $4.35 billion.
“I hope the House embraces this concept and recognizes that it is really good for our economy, for the jobs, for working West Virginians, and if they don’t like it we’re excited to see their alternative,” Carmichael told reporters, trailing off with a laugh.