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Nelson: House getting closer to budget plan

House Finance Committee Chair Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha), right, and Vice Chair Eric Householder (R-Berkeley) have held several hours of committee meetings working on new state budget.
House Finance Committee Chair Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha), right, and Vice Chair Eric Householder (R-Berkeley) have held several hours of committee meetings working on new state budget.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Finance Committee Chair Eric Nelson said Friday he anticipates having a budget plan ready for House members to consider sometime Monday.

“The intent of the chair right now is that Monday we’d start having the budget talks so we can put the pieces together and move forward for the citizens of West Virginia of balancing this 2017 budget,” Nelson (R-Kanawha) said.

Finance committee member Nancy Guthrie (D-Kanawha) told Nelson she was looking forward to seeing the plan.

“I’m just concerned about the piecemeal fashion that we’re going about this whole process and would like to see exactly what you all are going to propose,” Guthrie said.

Friday marked the fifth day of the special session called by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The governor has proposed filling a projected $270 million revenue hole with tax increases while Republican leaders are pushing toward a combination of revenue enhancements, further budget cuts and taking more money from the Rainy Day Fund.

Nelson’s committee continued discussions Friday with state agencies about where their budgets could be further cut. Members also originated two bills that would bring $14 million into the general revenue fund from other parts of the budget including $4 million from the state School Building Authority and $10 million from the Infrastructure Development Fund. Those bills are not on the governor’s special session call but Nelson said he planned to ask the governor to add them.

“It would be the intent of the chair to formally make a request to the governor, from the committee, to put these on the call,” Nelson said.

The committee also heard from the state Attorney General’s Office Friday. Chief Financial Officer Jamion Wolford said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was giving $8.5 million from his office’s consumer protection fund to the general revenue fund to help with the budget crisis. The remaining fund balance would be approximately $720,000 with additional consumer protection settlements expected, Wolford said.

A $78 million piece of the House’s plan is the governor’s tobacco tax increase bill (SB 1005) that passed the Senate Thursday. The bill will be on second reading, amendment stage, during Monday’s House floor session.

Friday on the House floor, Del. Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton) criticized the Republican leadership for the pace of the special session.

“We’ve had a pretty worthless week down here. We’ve spent $175,000 and we’ve yet to cast a single vote in this body,” Sponaugle, who is not a member of the finance committee, said.

His comments brought on a slew of responses from Republicans.

“To say we are here doing nothing I think is a total mischaracterization,” Del. Jim Butler (R-Mason) said. “I would like to inform everyone in the House, here, and I think everyone knows this, we all have votes on the budget and we all have access to the information.”

The Senate held a brief floor session Friday. There were no committee meetings scheduled. Monday’s floor session in the Senate is set for 9:30 a.m.

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