Budget

On the Legislature Today, members of the House Finance Committee consider two bills that would help balance the 2018 budget, one to lower the overall sales tax rate while getting rid of some exemptions, the other to capture some dollars from the state's Road Fund and increase the beer barrel tax.

Across the rotunda in a Senate committee, members have advanced a bill to create a medical marijuana program in West Virginia, allowing doctors to prescribe the illegal drug for medicinal use.

On The Legislature Today, there are several pieces of legislation making their way through the statehouse to expand broadband internet access in West Virginia.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 30 percent of West Virginians do not have access to federally defined broadband internet. That's why two West Virginia groups have joined together to promote expansion in any way possible.

West Virginia Governor's Office

Gov. Jim Justice says he and his staff will be waiting for lawmakers in his “war room”—a conference room in the Governor’s Office—every morning until the end of the legislative session to work on a budget compromise.

Justice held the first of those meetings Wednesday, which was attended by six members of the Democratic caucus from both the House and Senate.


On The Legislature Today, Gov. Jim Justice says he or members of his staff will be in his “war room” every morning through the end of the legislative session, inviting lawmakers from both parties to join him to work on a budget.

 

This morning was the first of those meetings and while some lawmakers did attend, they were all members of the Democratic Party.

Steve Helber / AP Photo

Crystal Snyder was trying to figure out life as a single mom when she lost her job at a West Virginia T-shirt factory.

The 37-year-old had no college degree, mostly because she married at 16, divorced at 19 and had two children. Unsure what to do, Snyder heard about a program through the Coalfield Development Corp. that would hire her and pay for her to get an associate degree. Now she works full time for one of the nonprofit's agriculture offshoots.

On The Legislature Today, Republican leaders this week released their 2018 budget framework and progressed a bill to reform the state's tax system, while Gov. Jim Justice made changes to his budget bill that he says will result in a $54 million surplus next year. 

Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy Executive Director Garrett Ballengee and Senior Policy Analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy Sean O'Leary discuss the plans.

Perry Bennet / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Gov. Jim Justice's Office has adjusted his 2018 budget proposal and, as a result, is asking lawmakers to change some appropriations in the plan, including reinstating some previously cut programs.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The Senate’s Transportation Committee has voted to advance a bill that would hike some taxes and fees to help increase funding for the state’s roadways. 

The bill was presented to lawmakers by Gov. Jim Justice, but is not part of his plan to generate more than $1 billion in revenues for a bond initiative. 

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

While Republican legislative leaders haven’t unveiled an actual bill, they have unveiled a more detailed plan for balancing the state’s budget. Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead announced those plans during a press conference Monday

The plan is based on a premise Carmichael calls "novel" in state government: spending only the amount of money the state actually has. 

On The Legislature Today, days before Republican Legislative leaders previewed their plan to balance the 2018 budget, members of the House Liberty Caucus came up with a solution of their own.

Delegates Pat McGeehan and Michael Folk introduced their budget bill Thursday in the House of Delegates. It makes cuts to "government bureaucracy" in Charleston, smooths payments to the teacher's retirement system, and cuts Gov. Jim Justice's $105 million "SOS Fund" to not just find a balance, but include a 2 percent pay raise for teachers. 

The delegates discuss their plan and why it should be considered a "blueprint" for their fellow Republicans.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the Senate Select Committee on Tax Reform have approved their bill to restructure the state's tax code. 

The committee substitute for Senate Bill 335 was passed out of the committee Monday morning, the first step in its process to completion.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Editor's Note: This bill was revised by the Senate Select Committee on Tax Reform Monday, March 13. The revisions are explained in a new story on this website. 

Over the weekend, members of the Senate’s Select Committee on Tax Reform were presented with the latest version of a bill to overhaul West Virginia’s tax structure.

This is the third version of the legislation the 7 member committee has seen, but they’ve yet to take a vote on the measure. That vote, however, expected to come Monday.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In a memo signed by his deputy chief of staff, Gov. Jim Justice has placed a moratorium on state vehicle purchase, prohibiting them "indefinitely."

Any exceptions, according to the memo, "will only be granted in the most extraordinary circumstances" and must be approved by the Governor's Office.

On The Legislature Today, lawmaker have reacted the halfway point of this legislative session and Gov. Jim Justice is pressuring Republican leaders to release their spending plan. 

After some harsh words from the governor during a press conference Friday aimed at the caucus, House Finance Chair Eric Nelson and Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall pushback, defending the legislative process they say is defined in the state's Constitution. 

On The Legislature Today, House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Mitch Carmichael say their chambers are still diligently working on plans to balance the 2018 budget, but the $497 million gap estimated by the Governor's Office for the coming fiscal year, Carmichael calls it a number inflated by Gov. Jim Justice's want to increase spending. 

Carmichael discusses the Senate's push to "hold the line" on spending while still providing vital government services. 

Armstead says while he would like approve a budget in a bi-partisan fashion, he believes Republican members of his chamber are ready to make the tough decisions when it comes to downsizing government, which likely means laying off state workers. 

On The Legislature Today, the state of West Virginia’s budget has largely been the focus of this legislative session, overshadowing many of the other bills making their way through the process.

Several pieces of legislation, though, have been introduced to aid the victims of rape and sexual assault in the state. Sen. Mike Woelfel and Nancy Hoffman with the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services discuss those bills.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Jim Justice says his administration's review of state finances has identified about $120 million available to help close the budget gap in the current fiscal year.

The first-year Democrat says that includes using about $60 million from special revenue accounts and $60 million in re-appropriated funds, meaning unspent money from the last five years for the governor's office, Legislature, insurance commissioner and other state agencies.

On The Legislature Today, Gov. Jim Justice has sent lawmakers a second budget plan this session and now plans to sweep $120 million in one time monies to balance the 2017 budget.

Lawmakers also got their first look at the $610 million deficit that would be created by the Senate's current tax reform bill that would repeal the personal income tax and replace it with an expanded consumer sales tax. 

State Journal Managing Editor Ann Ali and MetroNews Statewide Correspondent Brad McElhinney recap the week's budget news.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Jim Justice continued his Save Our State Tour Friday, making a stops in Wood County to discuss his budget plans.

Save Our State, or SOS, is what Justice has dubbed his plan to close a $497 million budget gap in the 2018 fiscal year and fund a $2 billion bond for road construction. 

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Gov. Jim Justice has posted on his state website a countdown clock marking the end of the regular legislative session on April 8 as the state budget deadline.

On Wednesday, the clock showed 38 days, hours and seconds ticking away.

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