The devastating floods of 2016 have only added to the budget storm that hovers over West Virginia. After just one month in the new fiscal year, tax revenue in the Mountain State is already down by nearly 33 million dollars. But even without the floods, money troubles were already coming:
“Yes, absolutely. We have a structural revenue problem. They keep making one-time patches to ongoing expenses, and that means we are going to have to put those important priorities up front. And we are going to have to deal with our budget crisis that we are still in,” said Ted Boettner, of the WV Center on Budget and Policy.
That means less money available for road repairs, school expansion, and economic development. If the situation gets worse, there may have to be more cuts in state programs:
“It’s time for us to look at what we are spending, not just in trying to back fill with more taxes,” said State Sen. Ed Gaunch, (R) Kanawha.
Lawmakers did raise the tobacco tax this year; but plans to levy a cell phone tax never got a hearing. Rather than raising taxes, one idea might be to eliminate loopholes and tax breaks.
“It is pretty clear that we have a lot of tax breaks that we need to look at. We need to revamp out entire code to ensure that we have the revenue that is needed to make important communities thrive in West Virginia,” said Ted Boettner, of the WV Center on Budget & Policy.
“I hope that it will cause us in the long term to start looking at this budget process, because it’s flawed,” said Sen. Ed Gaunch.
Critics say one of those flaws is overestimating how much revenue from coal, the state will generate.
“Lawmakers will be back here at the capitol in just over two weeks for the August interim sessions. At that time we may have a better idea of the budget shortfall situation,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Political Reporter.