While Republican legislative leaders haven’t unveiled an actual bill, they have unveiled a more detailed plan for balancing the state’s budget. Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead announced those plans during a press conference Monday
The plan is based on a premise Carmichael calls "novel" in state government: spending only the amount of money the state actually has.
That’s why Republican legislative leaders say they’ll put forward a budget that spends just slightly more than $4 billion for 2018. Because that’s how much money the state collected in 2017.
"This state, to put it on the path of progress, prosperity and responsible budgeting, finally to resolve these annual budget crises, must live within our means," Carmichael said in a room packed with Republican Senators and Delegates who largely hadn't seen the proposal themselves.
Their $4 billion budget will cut several of Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed spending increases.
Justice presented that plan to lawmakers in the form of a $4.5 budget during his State of the State Address in February.
The legislative plan cuts his $105 million Save Our State Fund for business development, his 2 percent across-the-board teacher pay raise, and eliminates a $5.6 million increase in tourism advertising.
Republican leaders also plan to smooth out the state’s payments into the teachers retirement program, essentially pushing some obligations down the road.
They plan to eliminate subsidies to greyhound racing and casinos, and will maintain the 2 percent mid-year cut former- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin implemented in the fall.
Those, along with some other provisions and increases in the taxes on beer and liquor, will keep spending in line, according to Armstead.
“The idea that if we just spend more in government and somehow that’s going to make us prosperous is not true, Armstead said, "and now we’re talking about a proposal that would spend the greatest amount this state has ever spent in general revenue funds, funded by the greatest tax increase in the history of our state. That is not the answer.”
Armstead and Carmichael also pledged Monday to do something they say has never been done in the history of the state: pass a budget by day 60, or the final day of the legislative session.
They say they’re making it a priority to get all of the bills that could impact the budget passed quickly, allowing the Finance Chairs time to put the bill together and put it to a final vote on April 8.