Lawmakers Work to Balance 2015 Budget While 2016 Deficits Loom
With a projected $80 million budget gap by the end of this fiscal year, lawmakers are considering bills to ensure a balanced budget is maintained.
Members of the Senate approved four of Governor Tomblin's supplemental appropriation bills for fiscal year 2015, the current budget year, intended to help close the gap.
The bills move excess funds from last year’s budget to the state accounts that pay for Medicaid and Medicaid services. The expenses this year, and in years past, have been substantially more than projected.
Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall explained aside from the growing Medicaid budget, the accounts contain millions upon millions of state dollars and are often borrowed from to cover shortfalls in other areas.
Approving supplemental bills for the current year is nothing new for lawmakers. Hall said while legislators do their best to provide a viable budget for the next fiscal year, revenues and expenditures are constantly changing and the legislature or the governor has to go back and fill in the gaps.
“The governor can change the budget projections throughout the year. Our budget document is a solid document, but it is a document that can be amended and changed," he said, "and if you look back you’ll see the current year’s budget was changed by these types of supplemental actions reflecting either a surplus that was spent or in this case a deficit where you need to grab money from somewhere to fill the gap.”
As for the upcoming 2016 budget, Hall said he is prepared to present his proposal to lawmakers next week, but doesn’t expect a final vote on the budget bill during the regular session.
Earlier in the session, Hall and House Finance Chair Delegate Eric Nelson said leadership intended to forgo an extended budget session this year, but Hall has since recanted that statement. He said there are too many moving parts to finalize a budget before all of the final bills are past.
Hall expects lawmakers to take two or three days in the week following the regular session to finalize the 2016 budget.