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Lawmakers prepare to vote on the budget

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -

By LAWRENCE MESSINA

Associated Press

 

The West Virginia Legislature expects to vote April 17 on a 2013-2014 state budget that spends slightly less than the version passed last year, following around $75 million in cuts triggered by weakening revenues and rising Medicaid costs.

The spending plan for the budget year starting July 1 includes $4.1 billion supported by general taxes.

The Senate and House of Delegates began this week's extended session just $1.2 million apart in this section of the budget. A special joint committee endorsed a compromise budget bill Tuesday that spends $4.7 million less in that category than what Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed.

Legislative leaders also met with administration officials April 16, seeking to revive several measures that stalled in the waning hours of the just-completed regular session. Those include a tax-financing proposal needed by a Morgantown-area development project, a magistrate court pay raise package, a bid to help volunteer fire departments with workers' compensation costs and several supplemental funding measures for the current budget year. The later items include one sought by the state attorney general for upgrading that office's phone system.

Lawmakers are also expected to remedy several bills that face vetoes because of technical errors. But for the governor to consider a brief special session while they're still in Charleston, legislators must first agree on the details. The pay raise bill, for example, failed after the House and Senate disagreed on how many magistrates and top court staff should get salary hikes.

"We're trying to determine if there is any agreement over any items," House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White told reporters Tuesday. "They have to feel pretty comfortable before it can go on the (special session agenda)."

The $75 million in cuts reflect Tomblin's order to most agencies he oversees to reduce spending by 7.5 percent. Tuesday's proposal blunts some of those, such as by restoring funding to programs targeting domestic violence and sexual assault.

Recently signed legislation aimed at improving public schools requires the Department of Education to cut 5 percent in personnel spending. While the House proposed reducing its funding by $850,000 as a result, White said the bill up for a vote instead allows the state schools superintendent to shift the 5 percent from staffing costs to other education needs.

Other funding in the budget bill includes nearly $4.1 billion from federal sources, nearly $1.2 billion from fuel taxes and other revenues dedicated to state road needs, $1.5 billion from such special sources as license fees and $408 million from lottery proceeds. These categories and the general revenue portion total $11.4 billion, just $2 million less than last year's budget bill. The Legislature posted a copy of the revised spending plan ahead of Wednesday's vote.

 

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