West Virginia Lawmakers Resume Work on Long-Delayed Budget

West Virginia State Capitol

West Virginia lawmakers have returned to negotiate a long-delayed 2017 budget hampered by the coal industry’s downfall and low natural gas prices.

The Republican-led Legislature reconvened Monday, per Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s call.

Tomblin has proposed options of tax increases on sales, tobacco, e-cigarettes and cellphone and landline use.

Tomblin suggested using $29 million from the Rainy Day Fund and millions from other funds to backfill the 2016 budget. He requested authority to furlough state employees in fiscal emergencies.

The 2017 fiscal year starts July 1. A $270 million budget gap remains.

The Senate previously passed tobacco and sales tax hikes. The House didn’t. The cellphone and landline tax went unconsidered.

The sales tax increase could be at most 1 percent.

House Speaker Tim Armstead says it’s disappointing Tomblin placed the burden on taxpayers.