Thursday, February 11, 2016

W.Va. gov: GOP lawmakers not addressing budget "frustrating"

(AP) — About halfway through the 60-day legislative session, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says it's frustrating that lawmakers haven't considered options to plug a massive budget hole.

The Democrat told the AP that the Republican-led Legislature hasn't offered revenue-raising alternatives. Tomblin's proposals to raise $71.5 million yearly through tobacco tax increases and $60 million annually through a proposed cell phone and landline use tax have sat unconsidered.

Many state agencies have faced 20-percent combined cuts over the last three years. Tomblin said 6.5 percent cuts that lawmakers may consider could spur layoffs and closure of a college or two. Tomblin also opposes tapping state reserves.

As coal and natural gas tax revenues fizzle, West Virginia faces a $384 million budget gap this year and a $466 million gap next year.