Latest subpar month puts West Virginia budget $40 million down

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia general revenue collections were $7 million under estimate for the most recent month, continuing a flat financial trend.

The state has only come out ahead one month since the fiscal year began, resulting in being down $40 million overall.

The numbers came from the Senate Finance Committee, noting a possibility that they could still be revised. Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair said he isn’t worried yet.

Craig Blair

“I am not concerned by that,” said Blair, R-Berkeley, suggesting that the money could still be made up in a variety of ways.

He added, “The first half of the year is always a little worse than what the second half is. Not always, but it’s predictable that we’re going to have a better second half. But we’re struggling.”

Gov. Jim Justice announced a 1:30 p.m. Friday press conference to discuss the budget.

The administration has talked about the possibility of asking state agencies to trim $100 million total from the $4.7 billion general fund, but there has not yet been a final decision.

There have also been warnings to prepare for budget cuts for next year as finances are considered in the upcoming legislative session.

Tax collections came under estimate in several key areas, as they have most of the year.

Personal income tax collections were almost $1.5 million down.

Severance tax collections were $4.8 million down.

The low severance tax collections — coming in $38 million below estimate for the year so far — have been blamed on low natural gas prices as well as a suppressed export market for metallurgical coal, the kind used as a component for steel.

“Severance tax rollercoaster as always, and that’s the one we’ve got to be able to address — and be less reliant on that severance tax. Use the low threshold on that in our budgeting process, not the middle or the high.”

Mick Bates

Delegate Mick Bates, the ranking Democrat on the House Finance Committee, agreed the state will probably be able to muddle through the budget for the current year.

But he said there is no clear sign of an economic turnaround.

“I’m less worried about the next six months than I am the next year, two years,” said Bates, who represents Raleigh County.

“We can kind of patch our way through this thing. But what does the next fiscal year look like? And what about the year after that?”

Bates said the current economic situation does not represent a rocket ship ride.

“It’s a skateboard at best.”

November FY20 (Text)

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