Lots to decide on West Virginia budget this year

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WOWK) — There was a lot to chew on during the annual “Budget Breakfast” sponsored by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy on Wednesday.

Governor Jim Justice’s proposed $4.5 billion dollar spending plan was the main course.

That focused a lot of talk about repealing the state’s business equipment and inventory tax, which critics say slows business growth.

We’re trying to become more business friendly in the Mountain State and this is the big next hurdle in the Mountain State. So, the one big thing we see is all these manufacturing jobs and different local jobs that really need this burden off their back.

Del. Zach Maynard (R) Lincoln

Revenue for this year is forecast to be off by $200 million dollars from last year. Much of that is because of drop in coal and gas severance taxes, but the inventory tax provides millions to local governments, and critics say the cuts could cripple them.

This is a huge chunk of money for our schools, for local governments, for fire, for police. That’s where this money goes. How to make up for that facing a $170 million dollar budget gap, with no changes to our tax policy? I don’t see how that’s possible without painful cuts.

Sean O’Leary, West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy

The Governor’s plan to set aside $150 million dollars in excess Medicaid funds, brought a warning from lawmakers who say it should be for health care needs only.

That it has to stay there. That we can’t use it as kind of a slush fund to fill the holes in the budget.

Del. Lisa Zukoff (D) Marshall

There is also a lot of focus on dealing with a $135 million dollar spike in the cost of foster care over the past decade.

Lawmakers have until mid-March to either add spending items to the budget, or to cut some others out. The bottom line is they must deal with the Governor’s $4.5 billion budget proposal.

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