Leah Willingham Published

W.Va. House, Senate Move Forward On Budget Proposals

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The West Virginia Senate on Friday advanced a $4.65 billion state budget proposal that includes 5 percent pay raises for state employees.

The budget bill that passed unanimously and without discussion, mirrors the price tag for the Republican Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal for the fiscal year, which starts in July.

The governor’s budget proposal calls for a 1.4 percent increase, or $65.5 million, in spending. Justice said the budget is essentially flat for the fourth straight year.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Eric Tarr said Friday the bill is just a starting point for the final budget, which will be a combination of both the Senate and the House proposals.

The House version of the budget bill, which passed through the House Finance Committee on Thursday, is a bit different. The $4.55 billion estimated budget includes funding for proposals to reduce personal income taxes and to reinstate the state’s film tax credit.

A bill that passed in the House last month would cut personal income taxes by 10 percent in each bracket is estimated to cost $96 million for the first year.

A bill that would reinstate the state’s film tax credit is expected to cost $4 million.

The Senate Finance Committee has yet to take up the personal income tax cut proposal. The committee passed the film tax credit bill, which is now under consideration by the full Senate.

The House bill includes $31.6 million in cuts to Justice’s proposed budget, including an $8 million cut to Marshall University, $14 million cut from West Virginia University and $7 million cut to the Department of Tourism’s brand promotion fund.

It still includes 5 percent raises for state employees.

The Senate bill makes $9.4 million in reductions for Justice’s proposed budget, largely made up of reductions to the teachers’ retirement system and teacher unfunded liability.

Those funds were rededicated to other areas of the budget. Under the Senate proposal, the state Division of Tourism would receive an additional $2 million for brand promotion and $1 million would go to the Division of Natural Resources for enhancing the equine industry.

An additional $1.2 million would go to the Department of Human Resources Division of Health for sexual assault intervention and $1.8 million would go to West Virginia State University for its land grant match and for its Healthy Grandfamilies program.