Randy Yohe Published

House Budget Bill Goes To Floor With Questions

Gray-haired man with flashy tie stands and speaks on House floor.
House Finance Committee Chair Vernon Criss, R-Wood, speaks on the House floor.
Perry Bennett/WV Legislative Photography

Late Wednesday afternoon, the House Finance Committee advanced a $4.6 billion general revenue budget. The Senate passed its version of the budget bill on Saturday. 

In a surprise move, Gov. Jim Justice increased the state revenue estimate Wednesday by $850 million. 

House Finance Committee Chair Vernon Criss, R-Wood, said figuring in the additional money for the coming fiscal year revenue estimates, comes as an executive prerogative.

“The legislature is given those dollars by the governor on how much money you’re allowed to spend or put in the budget,” Criss said. “He allowed that he added an additional $850 million in a letter yesterday to allow us to see if we need to use those monies for the things that we’ve all talked about doing for years, and we’re trying to press those out.”

House Finance Committee member John Williams, D-Monongalia, wondered where the governor found the money.

“I don’t know, that’s a heck of a couch cushion,” Williams said. “I asked that question myself in finance to see if there was anybody from the governor’s office that could answer that question. I’m eager to find the answer to that myself.”

Criss and Williams agreed the budget challenge now is to reconcile the revenues expected to come in, with the many state expenditures both mandates and proposed.

“You’re trying to backfill the needs, like we did with the colleges and the CTC’s, setting aside $100 plus million dollars for them, trying to take care of the other necessary items that have been neglected for some time,” Criss said. “We’re trying to catch up with those, as well as keeping a budget for the taxpayers at a minimum cost of raising the budget.”

For Williams, the issue was reconciling the revenue and expenditures. 

“This year is a little different in that we have this massive tax cut bill, it’s going to blow a billion dollars into the budget,” Williams said. “That’s before you count some other bills that this legislature has passed and it’s going to knock some holes in the budget. Quite frankly, I’m concerned about our state’s ability to balance, perhaps this budget, but certainly looking at future years, what that’s going to look like?” 

The House and Senate have a little more than a week to find that budget balance.