CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates passed and sent to the Senate a bill that scrounges up $39 million toward balancing the state’s 2015 budget that begins July 1.
H.B. 4333 passed 72-25 with bi-partisan support Wednesday.
The legislation helps close a hole of at least $140 million in next year’s budget by taking $20 million from an infrastructure fund and trimming lottery allocations to a variety of sources to save another $19 million for one year.
Even if the Senate approves those cuts, the state must still dip into the Rainy Day emergency fund for as much as $100 million.
The lottery allocation cuts became more acceptable to lawmakers than the governor’s original proposal by protecting cities and counties that receive a share of lottery money. Under the revised bill, those areas will not be cut at all. The plan does, however, trim subsidies to horse and greyhound breeders by 10 percent.
That triggered opposition from lawmakers in regions where tracks are located. Delegate Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson) said the horsemen at the Charles Town Race Track have already been hurt by increased competition from neighboring states, and the lottery cuts will make things worse.
“This legislation we have before us would essentially be an additional 10-percent cut over the cuts that they have already experienced,” Espinosa said on the House floor.
House Finance Committee Chairman Brent Boggs admitted the cuts are difficult to make, but they are essential to balancing the budget. “This is a piece of the puzzle to get to where we need to get,” Boggs said.
The debate over the bill created another opportunity for Delegate Jim Morgan (D-Cabell) to push for a penny increase in the state sales tax, up to seven cents on the dollar.
“That one cent would amount to, per person, $100 to $150 per year,” Morgan said. “Spread that out over 12 months and—I hate to put it this way—you won’t even miss it.”