CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The House of Delegates on Friday voted 61-37 to pass its balanced Fiscal Year 2017 budget bill, House Bill 101, forwarding the measure to the Senate.
“The people of West Virginia have said they want us to lead and pass a budget. We have led,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. “This budget strikes a balance of difficult but reasonable cuts, a moderate use of our state’s Revenue Shortfall Reserve Fund, and an exhaustive sweep of excess money in existing accounts.
“This budget reflects the enormous challenges we face in West Virginia, given the downturn in our energy industries,” Speaker Armstead said. “For months, lawmakers have faced the extreme difficulties of shoring up our current year’s budget and closing a gaping hole in next year’s budget without harmful cuts in essential services or substantial tax increases on our citizens.
“This budget funds our priorities, including higher education needs, PROMISE Scholarships and state employees’ health insurance programs, while also shielding taxpayers from significant new tax burdens,” Armstead said.
The $4.088 billion General Revenue Fund budget proposal authorizes state spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1. It closes a $271 million funding gap using a combination of targeted spending cuts, sweeps of unappropriated money in special revenue accounts, and use of the state’s Revenue Shortfall Reserve Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund.
“This budget reflects the significant challenge of funding government during these difficult economic times,” said House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha. “I want to thank the Finance Committee, our staff and all members of the House who contributed ideas to craft this proposal. We have delivered a balanced approach that ensures our state government will be able to continue operating come July 1.”
The House budget features no cuts to higher education institutions, fully funds the PROMISE Scholarship program, and adds the funds needed to avert drastic increases in deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for state employees and retirees enrolled in Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) programs.
The budget plan closes next year’s $271 million projected shortfall with approximately $45 million in additional spending cuts, $49 million in special revenue account sweeps, $143 million in net Rainy Day Fund withdrawals and $34 million in other measures, including the elimination of the state casino modernization fund and greyhound purse fund.
The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.