CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, and House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said today that as a result of new revenue projections from the executive branch, the Legislature will adjourn its session and come back at a later date to come up with a new plan to balance the state’s budget.
The state Department of Revenue earlier today provided lawmakers with updated Fiscal Year 2017 revenue estimates that are $92.4 million less than the original figures provided at the start of the legislative session. The decline was driven by the continued downturn in the coal and energy markets.
The revised estimates come as conferees from the House of Delegates and Senate were negotiating the final version of the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.
“Our economy is facing tremendous challenges due to the War on Coal and declines in natural gas markets. Our state's budget situation is a result of that,” Senate President Cole said. “We have worked diligently during the 60-day session to craft a balanced budget, and were prepared to pass a budget today based on the administration’s original revenue projections.”
“Unfortunately, the new revenue estimates released today, containing a new $92.4 million shortfall, were not provided to us prior to the end of our regular session on Saturday,” Speaker Armstead said. “Before the Governor lowered the revenue estimates, we were prepared to complete the session today with a balanced budget that tightened our belt while funding essential state programs, such as our education system and Public Employees Insurance Agency. Instead of now trying to address this additional gap in less than a day, it is the responsible course to step back and further evaluate what additional measures we must take.”
“We remain committed to passing a balanced budget based on the new revenue estimates, and urge the Governor to call us into session in a responsible timeframe to do so,” Speaker Armstead said. “If not, we will work to call ourselves into Special Session in ample time to pass a Fiscal Year 2017 budget that responsibly funds our government, and fully funds PEIA.”
“Regardless of how our state ended up in this situation, it will take the work of both the Executive and the Legislative branch to address it,” Senate President Cole said. “Now that we have a more accurate revenue estimate, we absolutely must work to get our fiscal house in order and control the size of government while meeting essential obligations, especially to our state employees by fully funding PEIA.
“At this point, across-the-board cuts aren’t enough to fix this situation,” Senate President Cole said. “It is going to require tough, targeted reductions, and I believe those can be found in Charleston not in our State Police barracks or classrooms.”
“The people of West Virginia are having a hard time making ends meet,” Speaker Armstead said. “We must work together in the coming weeks to produce a balanced, responsible budget that addresses the needs of our fellow West Virginians and at the same time does not place additional undue burdens on our hard-working citizens."