CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WOWK) — The Mountain State is experiencing a sharp decline in severance tax collections from coal and natural gas for the months of July and August. At that pace West Virginia has a $50 million budget deficit. Some Democrats are blaming Governor Justice.
“He promised to take us all on a rocket ship ride to prosperity. Unfortunately we have had more of the same. Both the leadership in the administration and the leadership in the legislature has refused to diversify our economy and now it looks like that rocket ship is running out of fuel,” said Del. Mike Pushkin, (D) Kanawha.
The governor’s office has notified state agencies of a possible across the board budget cut of nearly 5 percent.The downturn comes as a surprise to many, because other economic indicators are up West Virginia.
“We had the best August since any year since 2008. The most employment, the highest wages paid, and that is translates into more income tax collections,” said Steve Roberts, President, West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Economists say even though unemployment is now at an 11-year low, the loss of severance tax is so deep that it may simply offset any other financial gains.
“The state revenue secretary says initial projections for September show that revenue is increasing once again. And if that trend continues, the budget cuts may not have to happen,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.