CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — There was a lot to chew on during the annual “Budget Breakfast” sponsored by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. Governor Jim Justice’s proposed four-and-a-half billion dollar spending plan was the main course. That focused a lot of talk about repealing the state’s business equipment and inventory tax, which critics say slows business growth.
“We’re trying to become more business-friendly in the Mountain State and this is the big next hurdle, in the Mountain State. So, you know the one big thing we see is all these manufacturing jobs and different local jobs that really need this burden off their back,” said Del. Zach Maynard, (R) Lincoln.
Revenue for this year is forecast to be off by $200 million dollars from last year. Much of that is because of drop-in coal and gas severance taxes. But the inventory tax provides millions to local governments, and critics say the cuts could cripple them.
“And this is a huge chunk of money for our schools, for local governments, for fire, for police. That’s where this money goes. How to make up for that facing a $170 million dollar budget gap, with no changes to our tax policy? I don’t see how that’s possible without painful cuts,” said Sean O’Leary, West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy.
The Governor’s plan to set aside $150 million dollars in excess Medicaid funds, brought a warning from lawmakers who say it should be for health care needs only.
“That it has to stay there. That we can’t use it as kind of a slush fund to fill the holes in the budget,” said Del. Lisa Zukoff, (D) Marshall.
There is also a lot of focus on dealing with a $135 million dollar spike in the cost of foster care over the past decade.
“Lawmakers have until mid-March to either add spending items to the budget or to cut some others out. The bottom line is they must deal with the Governor’s four-and-a-half billion dollar budget proposal,” said Mark Curtis 13 News Chief Political Reporter.