Tim Ennis Predicts State Budget Cuts

State budget cuts of 3 to 5 percent likely will be first thing on the agenda when West Virginia lawmakers return to Charleston next month, according to Del. Tim Ennis.

“The big thing is going to be the budget,” he said. “We have a projected deficit of $100 million to $150 million this year.

“I would look for the governor to institute an across-the-board budget cut after going into session of about 3 to 5 percent. In histories past, when governors (Cecil) Underwood and (Bob) Wise were in office and we faced a deficit, that is what they instituted.”

Ennis, D-Brooke, serves on the House Federal Stimulus Utilization Committee, as well as on the education, roads and transportation and veterans affairs/homeland security committees.

He also is vice-chair of the House Senior Citizen Issues Committee.

“We know tax revenues are down,” Ennis said. “But at the end of the day, we will be able to get through it.

“Just about everything we do takes money, and we’re going to have to be real cautious on expansion of programs.”

The lack of state funds could hinder Ennis’ wish to expand a program that gives a tax break to senior property owners.

The Homestead Exemption Act in West Virginia relieves those over age 65 of paying property taxes on their first $20,000 in value of their real estate, and Ennis would like to see increase to $30,000.

He noted the amount hasn’t been increased since the exemption was enacted in 1982.

“It needs to be put before voters as a constitutional amendment,” he said. “Voters should decide whether it needs to be increased.”

Raising the exemption would result in less collection of property taxes, Ennis acknowledged. But the effect would be felt more by county budgets than state budgets, he said, noting that boards of education would be affected most of all.

And if there is money to be found in the state budget this year, Ennis would like to see it go toward transportation – most notably the improvement of W.Va. 2 and the construction of an additional bridge in Brooke County.