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Tomblin announces steps to respond to slowing tax general revenue funds

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Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is taking even more steps to tighten the state's budgetary belt.

Tomblin announced March 19 he had steps to further reduce state spending because of slowing general revenue fund tax collections.

"Effective immediately, all agencies within the Executive Branch will implement a temporary hiring restriction on general revenue-funded position," a news release from Tomblin's office states.

Tomblin said in the news release he has advocated for and implemented plans to promote fiscal responsibility throughout his career.

"While we have fared better than most states in recent years, our nation's economic challenges continue to impact our state's revenue collections," Tomblin said in the news release. "The plan I'm implementing ensures key government services will continue to be provided to our people, and necessary employment positions to deliver those services will be filled."

West Virginia's general revenue tax collections were $35 million below budget forecast through the end of February, and that slowdown is expected to continue.

The temporary hiring restriction is effective immediately and will remain in effect through June 30, 2013, unless rescinded or extended, according to the news release.

Positions funded by special revenue sources will not fall within that hiring restriction, and the restriction will not result in any furloughs or layoffs, according to the news release. General revenue-funded positions within the Executive Branch that are vacant or become vacant will remain that way unless the Office of the Governor approves hiring.

Tomblin asked state agencies to cut their budgets by 7.5 percent in August but several agencies were exempt, including education, the West Virginia State Police and the Department of Health and Human Resources. Those cuts resulted in $75 million, including more than $450,000 from Tomblin's office budget.

Tomblin said during his Feb. 13 State of the State Address that West Virginia "did not kick the can down the road by borrowing money or allowing deficits to mount."

State Budget Office Director Mike McKown had been predicting a $389 million deficit since starting the budget process last year.

He said rising health care costs were the biggest factor to blame for the tight budget situation. He also knew West Virginia Lottery funds had been dropping since their peak in 2007.