Many supporters are asking about state funding for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Here's an update as of Sunday, April 16.
The House and the Senate have passed a budget that would reduce state funding for West Virginia Public Broadcasting by 22 percent, or $1 million dollars.
That would be a $3.6 million state appropriation in a $9 million total budget. (This reverses the Senate's original proposal, which zeroed out state funding for WVPB.)
Gov. Jim Justice has requested WVPB be funded at the same level as this year - $4.6 million. Justice's original budget contained no state funding for WVPB, but he revised that request to full funding in a letter to lawmakers in March.
On April 13, Justice vetoed the budget passed by the Legislature.
Now, all three sides (House, Senate and Governor) will continue negotiations to reach an agreed budget.
What does this means for WVPB? All funding levels are still on the table, and would be decided before and during a special session. That special session is expected sometime before the constitutional deadline of July 1.
The Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting plans to continue its "Back in the Budget" campaign until a budget bill is signed.
An unprecedented number of WVPB supporters have called and emailed lawmakers, according to House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson in a speech to fellow House members.
"I’m not sure if I’ve received more emails and calls than on this one particular line item. Unbelievable," Nelson said.
Nelson defended WVPB in response to an amendment from Del. Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, that would zero out funding for WVPB.
“They provide a very valuable resource,” Nelson said. “This is where Mountain Stage is, too. You talk about something that is out there promoting the state of West Virginia; this resource right here.
“One thing that is also talked about, they own a bunch of towers to help put signals out. They have other services…
“This is a very solid entity. I urge rejection of the gentleman’s amendment, so we can continue this service," Nelson said.
A total of 88 delegates voted to keep WVPB back in the budget – 10 members voted to eliminate funding.
The House bill that would have eliminated the Office of the Secretary of Education and the Arts (OSEA) failed to pass the Senate. WVPB is governed by the Educational Broadcasting Authority, which according to state code "is part of the Department of Education and the Arts for purposes of administrative support and liaison with the office of the Governor."
Finally, Governor Justice has expressed interest in transferring WVPB from a state licensee to one governed by a land-grant university such as WVU. No bill has passed the Legislature to transfer the licenses from the state to WVU or any other entity. The Educational Broadcasting Authority has recommended this issue be studied in depth, with recommendations and options returned to the Legislature, Governor and other interested parties.