CHARLESTON – Members of the House leadership expressed disappointment today with those members who voted against the state budget bill, which was the result of many hours of bipartisan work, cooperation and compromise.
“This spending plan for state government contains critical funding for education, in-home care for seniors, and more state troopers to investigate crimes against children, among many other important initiatives, ” House Speaker Tim Miley said. “In a very tight budget year, we have succeeded in striking a balance between fiscal conservatism and ensuring the state continues to provide meaningful services to our taxpayers.”
Speaker Miley noted lawmakers were able to ensure funding remained or was increased for forward-thinking programs such as the West Virginia University Law School’s Entrepreneurship Clinic, the 21st Century Learners program, and West Virginia Advance Workforce Development.
In explaining the $4.2 billion general revenue budget to House members, Finance Chairman Brent Boggs said it includes $5 million for in-home care assistance; $13 million placed back into state Road Fund for paving and maintenance; an additional $1.5 million for the Safe Drinking Water Program; $3 million for community based substance abuse treatment; and $1 million to hire additional State Police to staff the Crimes Against Children Unit. There is also added funding for numerous social service programs, including domestic violence programs, the Children’s Trust Fund and pill mill investigations.
“We worked closely with the Senate and the Governor, and I am proud of the final product,” the Chairman said.
For many years, Chairman Boggs has been working to provide more funding in order to reduce the waiting list for Medicaid Aged and Disabled Waiver. The program provides assistance so Medicaid recipients can stay in their homes, rather than be forced to enter nursing homes.
“I am grateful we were able to work out an agreement between the House and Senate on this,” Boggs said. “This program keeps people in their homes for one-half to two-thirds less the cost of them being in a nursing home. The funding is predicted to create 500 jobs and should cut the waiting list by at least half.
“But beyond the economics, it’s simply the right thing to do. People want to stay in their homes.”
House Majority Leader Harry Keith White said legislators are rightfully cautious about tapping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, but noted with a balance of more than $900 million, the fund exceeds the amount bond rating agencies recommend.
“The state has experienced an unexpected drop in revenue and was facing severe cuts. One of the reasons the Rainy Day Fund was created was in anticipation of this kind of situation,” White, a former House Finance chair, said. “With the promise of a new cracker facility and continually increasing developments in Marcellus Shale, we expect revenue to increase down the road.
“By appropriating a fraction of the Rainy Day Fund, we have prevented drastic cuts to the budget that would have negatively affected government services.”
Speaker Miley noted that legislators can’t expect to agree with every fine point of the state budget.
“While every delegate has his or her own idea of how some portions of the budget could be crafted differently, I can’t fathom being flat-out opposed to the overall measure,” he said. “We cannot move this state forward by always resorting to the easy, and unaccountable, vote of ‘no’ while offering no proposed alternatives in the form of further spending cuts or revenue generation.”