Winners and Losers from West Virginia's Budget Battle

Jun 22, 2017

Gov. Justice talks about "missed opportunities" at a budget press conference June 21
Credit WVPB

After months of a budget standoff, Governor Jim Justice announced he would allow a budget heavy on cuts and with no tax increases to become law without his signature.

That doesn’t mean he was happy with it.

“I can’t possible sign this,” he said. “They voted against the people of this state. They didn’t hurt me. They hurt the people.”

Justice and Senate Republicans wanted to cut the state income tax to generate economic growth. A coalition of House Republicans and Democrats blocked that proposal, which led to a budget that is $85 million less than last year's budget and cut funding to higher education, the arts and tourism.

On the Front Porch, we asked liberal host Rick Wilson and conservative host Laurie Lin who the winners and losers are from the budget battle.

Budget Winners

-          A coalition of budget hawks and liberals who opposed the personal income tax cuts “that would have set us up for deficits for years to come,” Wilson said. “Senate and House Democrats and House Republicans didn’t like messing with the personal income tax.”

-          House Republican leadership, who consistently opposed the personal tax increases and called for a budget balanced mainly on cuts – and largely got their way in the end.

-          Roads. The only revenue increases were tied to Justice’s road improvement plan, including a floor on the gas tax and increased DMV fees.

-          Greyhound breeders, who managed to hold onto a state subsidy which Lin says, “almost no one likes, except the people who benefit from it. Even the dogs don’t like it.”

Budget Losers

-          The people, according to Gov. Justice in his press conference. “They didn’t hurt me. They hurt the people,” he said, decrying what he called the missed opportunities and the budget cuts to services. “I think Governor Justice did what he had to do,” Wilson said, to avoid a shutdown.

-          Justice, according to Lin. “He had a big wish list, and he really got very little of that. There’s no Save Our State fund, there’s no teacher pay increase,” she said.

-          Senate Republicans, although Lin questions how wedded some of them were to eliminating the personal income tax. “I think the Governor’s mistake was to align himself with the Senate Republicans, who in the end aligned with their fellow Republicans in the House, and he got left out in the cold,” Lin said.

-          Higher education, the arts and tourism, three areas that took the brunt of the budget cuts.

Welcome to “The Front Porch,” where we tackle the tough issues facing Appalachia the same way you talk with your friends on the porch.

Hosts include WVPB Executive Director and recovering reporter Scott Finn; conservative lawyer, columnist and rabid "Sherlock" fan Laurie Lin; and liberal columnist and avid goat herder Rick Wilson, who works for the American Friends Service Committee.

An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available at wvpublic.org and as a podcast as well.

Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you'd like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail Scott at sfinn @ wvpublic.org

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