House Passes Budget Bill Despite Likely Veto
With a deadline of July 1 to avoid a government shutdown, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed its version of a budget Friday on a 61 to 37 vote.
The bill passed despite anticipation that -- even if it clears the Senate intact -- it’s likely to be met with a veto when it lands on the Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's desk.
Those who voted for the bill argued that it funds the public employee health insurance program, the PROMISE scholarship and prevents furloughs and layoffs of state workers.
Before putting the bill up for a vote, House Finance Chair Eric Nelson told his fellow delegates it was their "constitutional duty" to get a budget passed by July 1.
Many House Democrats, who helped to vote down a 45 cent increased tax on tobacco earlier in the week, voted against the budget bill. They had argued that the projected revenue of $78 million annually on the tobacco tax wasn't enough to help fill a $270 million budget gap for the Fiscal Year 2017.
Governor Tomblin has promised to veto a budget that relies heavily on the Rainy Day Fund.
“Governor Tomblin has repeatedly indicated that a fiscally responsible, structurally sound budget must include revenue enhancements as well as the cuts his budget submission included during both the regular and special sessions,” Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadleman said in a statement following the vote.
House Minority Leader Tim Miley acknowledged Tomblin's promise by voting against budget and called on Republicans to work with his party to find a more substantial revenue measure.
"Instead of heeding his advice and that of Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss, the majority continued to, nonetheless, take significant amounts from the Rainy Day Fund--which will only hurt us moving forward," said Miley.
"They've not been willing to address any revenue enhancements to speak of beyond the one vote on the tobacco tax."
Chairman Nelson he would entertain additional revenue options as well.
"Next week, we will continue to work on this and--the nice thing about any legislation--we can direct any monies into our Rainy Day Fund," said Nelson following the vote.
"So, any new monies would reduce the 143 million that's coming out of it right now. It can be done very easily without having to redo the budget."
The bill now heads to the Senate for their consideration.