CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, today called on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and his Democratic colleagues to abandon their plans to impose a massive $270 million tax increase and instead consider an alternative proposal that balances the state’s budget without increasing taxes.
Lane is promoting a plan that uses the budget that passed the House of Delegates earlier this year as a starting point. It adds to that plan a series of one-time and permanent cuts to close the projected $270 million budget gap for the coming fiscal year.
“West Virginia’s government has ballooned since the turn of the century, with the General Revenue Fund budget surging 62 percent since then,” Lane said. “In just the last five years, the general fund budget has gone up by $564 million, while the state’s unemployment rate has gone from 4.7 to 6.7 percent. Per capita income alone has dropped by $824 in the last 10 years – yet government continues to grow unchecked. It’s time to rein in spending to reflect what’s happened in our economy.”
The budget that passed the House earlier this year provided the needed funding for the state’s Public Employees Insurance Agency, while balancing the budget through a combination of roughly $120 million in spending cuts and nearly $105 million in money currently sitting in state accounts, either by sweeping from the nearly $370 million in state agency accounts or from the Rainy Day Fund. The House budget also called for eliminating the nearly $16 million in annual subsidies for the state’s greyhound industry.
The Legislature's budget conference committee was close to passing a similar budget proposal in the extended budget session, before the Governor’s Office lowered revenue expectations by another $92 million, pushing the total budget gap for next year to roughly $270 million.
The Governor’s Office has proposed closing next year’s entire budget gap with $270 million in tax increases – either a $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase and a half-percent sales tax increase, or a 45-cent cigarette tax increase and 1-percent sales tax hike. Lane thinks that proposal would do significant harm to the economy, and is instead offering up a series of additional cuts and transfers to close the gap.
“Governor Tomblin and state Democrats seem to think the only way to balance this budget is to pass roughly $270 million in new taxes,” Lane said. “I believe the worst thing we could do right now, with our people struggling and economy in recession, is to pass this massive tax increase. We need to get past this entrenched bureaucratic mentality and make the tough decisions to protect the people of this state.”
In addition to the original House budget plan, Lane has compiled more than $150 million in additional potential cuts and transfers to balance the budget and close the added gap created by the Governor's updated revenue projections. These proposals were culled from Legislative Audit reports, outside consultant recommendations and recommendations from other House members and the Governor.
“While the Governor’s Office leads people to believe the only way to balance the budget is with the largest tax increases in a generation, I believe we can fix this problem without asking our struggling West Virginia families for more money,” Lane said. “Given the fragile state of our economy and how much government has grown in the last 15 years, it’s time for us to demonstrate bold, responsible leadership and work to solve this budget problem in a way that doesn’t increase the burden on our citizens.”