Prezioso: more bills than money

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee predicts lean times for the state in the months ahead. Senator Roman Prezioso said the numbers in the state budget make it clear changes will be forthcoming as lawmakers gather for the 2014 Regular Legislative Session.

“Our expenditures are growing at nine percent and our revenues are growing at one percent,” he said. “You can’t make ends meet.”

The Tomblin administration is formulating the budget which will be presented during the upcoming State of the State Address. The spending plan includes proposals from all state agency heads with a seven percent reduction for the coming year and a second proposal in which spending is static. Prezioso predicts it will probably come out somewhere between those two figures.

“We probably will have to look at some reserve funding for this year and next year to cushion the blow,” Prezioso said on MetroNews Talkline. “Then hopefully the economy will turn around and we’ll be back in good shape.”

He admits it’s all a long shot, but said everybody needs to be  working together which in an election year will be especially tough.

Higher education is working to be spared any budget cuts since their shortfalls are being added onto student tuition and fees. Prezioso said they are an agency which is unprotected.

“I wish I could say that but unfortunately I can’t,” he said. “They’re the unprotected part of the budget in the Constitution and State Code. They are probably going to see some cuts, there’s no question.”

He was also asked about a pay raise for teachers. Prezioso supports improving teacher pay. He said we’ve returned to the days of the Caperton administration when teachers were almost dead last in the nation, but admits it won’t be an easy fix.

“If we’re going to be competitive with our teachers, they’re going to have to have a pay raise,” he said. “The problem is if you’re going to improvise a pay raise for teachers, you’re going to have to go out there and raise taxes.  It’s as simple as that.”

Prezioso said the tobacco tax was the “low-hanging fruit” for a tax increase, but admitted it may not be enough.  He was uncommitted about any other possible increase.

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