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WV Legislature passes $11.17 billion budget

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A tight budget comes come together quickly.

The West Virginia Legislature passed House Bill 2014, the budget bill, in just three days of an extended session.

The $11.17 billion budget is a lean one, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Roman Prezioso said the conference committee appointed to work on it had "serious challenges," but it came together the fastest he'd ever seen in his 25 years in the Legislature.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin had warned that Fiscal Year 14 would be one of the tightest in recent memory, and asked most state agencies to trim their budgets by 7.5 percent.

Prezioso said the budget was about $12 million less than what was appropriated for the previous fiscal year, and the Legislature's budget has additional cuts from Tomblin's proposal, with the "ultimate goal of restoring funds to vital services and worthwhile programs."

The House of Delegates passed the budget bill by a vote of 86 to 11, with Republican lawmakers voting against it, and the Senate approved the budget unanimously.

Prezioso presented the highlights to the Senate just before the vote. He said the budget included fully funded retirement payments for the various programs, and Medicaid is completely funded to the tune of $142 million more than last year for a total this year of more than $570 million.

Prezioso said college scholarship programs are fully funded, with $37.5 million for PRMISE, $470,000 for engineering, science and technology scholarships and $141,000 for the Underwood-Smith program, which is utilized in Tomblin's new education reform legislation.

Prezioso pointed out the budget has no layoffs or furloughs. He also noted that 23 percent of the general revenue budget went to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 10 percent went to higher education and 10 percent went to public education, which is "a dramatic difference from when I first came to this Legislature 25 years ago."

"We can take pride in knowing that our hard work and conservative approach in budgeting from previous years have helped to maintain a healthy status," he said. "Also know that we are faced with some difficult decisions moving forward."