West Virginia Leaders Pass $4.2 Billion Budget
WHEELING — West Virginia Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Hall described a budget bill passed by the Legislature late Friday as “not a beautiful thing” — but what was needed to avoid a state government shutdown after June 30.
After more than a month in special session, the House and Senate agreed to a $4.228 billion budget and needed road revenue measures late Friday.
Earlier Friday, the Senate picked up a budget amended and passed by the House Wednesday.
Changes made by the Senate restored $3.9 million in funding to the Department of Education and $274,000 in truancy prevention funds that had been cut from the bill. Medicaid also would be fully funded to original levels.
But the Senate also increased cuts to higher education an additional 2 percent — resulting in a cut of about 4.6 percent in funding to most state colleges and universities.
This was double the increase expected by smaller institutions.
The budget bill then passed the Senate with a vote with a vote of 19-8, with seven members absent. Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio; and Sen. Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, voted in favor. Sens. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall; and Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, were among those not casting votes.
Back in the House, Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, told delegates the increase would be passed on to students in the form of tuition increases.
He provided figures showing the funding would mean $282 less per student per year at West Virginia University, $302 at Marshall University and $162 at West Virginia State University.
“This state, the people of my district, deserve better than a $16 million cut to higher education,” said Delegate Joe Canestraro, D-Marshall. “The message is this is the best we can do to win the day. If this is a win, it sure doesn’t feel like one.”
Fifty-one votes were needed in the House to concur with the Senate’s changes.
The measure passed 64-25, with 11 members absent. Among those voting in favor were delegates Patrick McGeehan, R-Hancock: David Pethtel, R-Wetzel; Erikka Storch, R-Ohio; and Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock.
Voting in opposition were delegates Joe Canestraro and Mike Ferro, both D-Marshall; Phil Diserio, D-Brooke; and Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio. Delegate Roger Romine, R-Tyler, did not vote.
Also passing both the Senate and House Friday was a measure increasing funding for the State Road Fund, providing for road projects.
The measure passed the House with a vote of 67-22. Voting in favor were Canestraro, Diserio, Ferro, Fluharty, Pethtel, Storch and Zatezalo. McGeehan voted “no.” Romine did not vote.
The Senate passed the bill 23-4, with the roll call list not available late Friday.
The last measure approved gives the West Virginia Parkways Authority the power to issue revenue bonds for the purpose of financing parkway projects.
The House passed the measure just before 11:30 p.m. The Senate followed suit a short time later.