"My concern is once you get into that Rainy Day money, how far do you go?" said Prezioso, echoing concerns that if the fund is raided once, it will set a precedent for future legislatures to drain it for every new project that comes along.
Prezioso noted that, in order to balance past budgets, the administration emptied the Income Tax Refund Reserve Fund, taking it down from $45 million to zero (and if residents don't get their income tax refund checks until July or August this year, they'll know why), as well as the TRAFFIC account (which had been the Legislature's version of a Rainy Day fund), emptying that $55 million fund.
Now, Prezioso said he's apprehensive that the administration is coming for the state's last big nest egg. (Big on one level, at $918 million, but in perspective, only enough to keep state government running for barely 2 1/2 months, in the event no tax revenue was coming in.)
"It's incumbent on me in my position to exhaust all alternatives," he said.
While the administration's long-term budget forecast calls for an upturn in state revenues and budget surpluses beginning in 2017, Prezioso said he's not convinced, particularly since the budget estimates for last year and this year were off to the point that mid-year budget cuts were required.
The state may have 99 budget problems this year, but funding pensions isn't one of them.
Tomblin's proposed budget reduces pension contributions by more than $20 million, as the state Investment Management Board enjoyed a very good year, with a 16 percent return on pension fund investments -- more than double the 7.5 percent return required to keep the funds balanced.
Overall, from June 30 to Nov. 30, IMB assets grew by $1.06 billion, from $14.58 billion to $16.64 billion. Bet you wish your 401(k) looked like that.
Finally, I was glad to learn that I was not the only one who, in listening to the multiple references/allusions to gardening and governing in Tomblin's State of the State address, harkened back to the movie, "Being There."
That brilliant 1979 satire starred Peter Sellers as a simple gardener who had led an extremely sheltered life, who through improbable circumstances becomes the toast of the powers that be in Washington, who interpret his very literal statements about gardening to be wise allegorical insights about the state of the economy.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.