Bigger dip into Rainy Day Fund a possibility

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State leaders may take between $200 million and $220 million from the Rainy Day Fund to fill budget holes for the current fiscal year along with the next fiscal year which begins on July 1.

Members of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s Administration, including state Tax and Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss, met behind closed doors with Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 2), House Speaker Tim Miley (D-Harrison, 48) and other legislative leaders on Wednesday at the State Capitol to talk about the budget problems.

“The talk centered around how far into the Rainy Day Fund we dip to balance the budget,” said Miley on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

By taking a larger amount from the Rainy Day Fund, “(We would) Not dip into the highway fund, not take much — if any — from the lottery funds, but move the manner in which those funds are dispersed.”  That movement, Miley said, would help keep the state’s bond rating intact because the rating is based on a ratio determined by what the state has in reserve compared with the entire $4.7 billion budget.

Miley said, on Wednesday, the state leaders also discussed the possibility of raising the cigarette tax to generate new revenues, but no consensus was reached on that proposal.  Currently, the state tax on a pack of cigarettes is 55 cents.  At least one bill pending at the State House would take that state tax to $1.55 per pack.

In his State of the State Address, Tomblin had proposed taking $89 million from the Rainy Day Fund to plug the budget holes in addition to sweeping a number of state accounts — including those for the road fund and lottery — for another more than $60 million.

Earlier this week, members of the Senate Transportation Committee rejected the proposal to take $13 million from the road fund which pays for road construction and maintenance.  City and county leaders have also pushed back against the proposal to raid the lottery revenues they normally receive.

The Rainy Day Fund currently contains $920 million and, up to now, has not been used to pay for regular state expenses.

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