Budget work begins today at state capitol

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A handful of delegates and state senators will begin work today on settling their differences on the make-up of the state budget for next fiscal year after they finalized separate plans on the last night of the legislative session Saturday night. 

The Senate’s budget takes more from the Rainy Day Fund, some $125 million. The House version is more in line with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s plan of taking $83 million from the Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget.

The budget conference committee is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon. The House and Senate have floor sessions scheduled for Monday evening. It’s expected to take at least until Thursday to finish the spending plan.

State Senate President Jeff Kessler’s Future Fund proposal is on its way to the governor’s desk to become state law. The bill (SB 461) passed on the final night of the legislative session Saturday.

The Future Fund would capture a percentage of severance taxes from the state’s extraction industries and put it away and be used at a future time for economic development and infrastructure projects.

The bill did not finish in the form that it started and it may not be until 2020 before tax revenue begin going into the fund but supporters say they can always tweak the plan now that it will be part of state code.

Members of the House and Senate also gave final approval to the following bills Saturday:

–HB 4283–raising the minimum wage by $1.50 over the next two years. The Senate backed down from its plan to have the $1.50 stretch over three years.

–SB 450–has to do with wine sales but contains a provision that will allow wine to be sold at Mountaineer Field for WVU football games.

–SB 204–makes changes in the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund including mandating the fund no longer pay claims for meth lab property clean-ups.

–SB 477–was approved after the bill went to a conference committee. It will give teachers more control over their daily planning periods.

–HB 4256–amends the annual salary schedule for those who work in the State Police Crime Lab.

–HB 4298–a conference committee agreed to rework a bill that makes some changes in the makeup of the state Ethics Panel. The board will be reduced from 12 to 9 members.

–SB 317–deals with municipal firearms laws and allows gun owners with a conceal carry permit to carry those guns into some city-owned facilities.

–HB 4343–the West Virginia Launchpad Act is a pilot project that is aimed at creating jobs.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey came out of the session better than he may have thought just a few days ago. Lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have taken some powers away from the state Attorney General and also two bills failed that would have taken up to $12 million from the $19 million balance in the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Fund.

The Senate confirmed nearly all but one of the nominations made over the past few months by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for boards, commissions and administrative positions. Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, did have the nomination of state DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling pulled out of the list and voted on separately. He was the only senator to vote against her confirmation.

Both the Senate and House honored the life of Harrison County businessman and developer James LaRosa who died last month. The Senate also honored Kanawha-Charleston-Putnam Health Director Dr. Rahul Gupta for his work in the aftermath of the chemical spill and resulting water emergency.

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