CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The House of Delegates today voted 84-15 to pass a balanced Fiscal Year 2017 budget (Senate Bill 1013) which funds critical services and ensures the state government will continue operating after July 1.
“We have taken the crucial step in passing a final budget to make sure there will be no government shutdown,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. “This will put thousands of West Virginians’ minds at ease. The essential work of our government will continue uninterrupted.
“This budget represents a bipartisan compromise among the Legislature and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on a workable approach to funding our state government in the face of unprecedented economic challenges,” Speaker Armstead said. “In passing this budget, we will be able to end the fear and uncertainty many of our citizens, students and state employees have felt in the past few months.”
“This budget ensures our State Police stay on patrol, PROMISE scholars receive their awards, health care recipients receive the care they need and state employees continue their jobs without interruption,” said House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan.
The House did approve some changes to the budget from the versions that were proposed by Gov. Tomblin and passed by the Senate. Those changes include providing an additional $2 million to help state volunteer fire departments cover workers’ compensation costs, restoring $17.6 million in state funds for the Medicaid program and providing an additional $500,000 to Blue Ridge Community and Technical College.
Those funds were offset by eliminating a $4.1 million general revenue subsidy for greyhound racing purses and adding an additional $15.8 million in special revenue account sweeps.
The $4.2 billion General Revenue Fund spending plan now goes back to the Senate for additional consideration before heading to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his approval.
“This budget is the culmination of a tremendous amount of work to explore where we can tighten our belts and what we need to do to ensure essential services are not interrupted,” Majority Leader Cowles said. “In the end, all sides came to the table to compromise and pass a budget that funds our essential services in a responsible manner.”
The budget bill authorizes state spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1. With this spending plan in place, Speaker Armstead said the House’s focus will now shift to seriously considering alternative measures to find ways to streamline and make government more efficient in coming years.
“I truly believe we must find ways to restructure and right-size our government if we’re going to prevent further fiscal challenges down the road,” Speaker Armstead said. “It is my commitment that our leadership team will very seriously examine areas where we can consolidate and streamline services so that we can ease this structural budget imbalance that looms if our energy sector does not rebound quickly.”