CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's proposed 2014-15 budget appears to be falling out of balance, with state lawmakers balking at passing several pieces of legislation needed to close a $146 million gap in the spending plan.
"Obviously, we've got problems with the budget," Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said Tuesday.
"The governor submitted a budget that was not balanced, because it's contingent on us passing several different pieces of legislation," Prezioso said.
Earlier Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee rejected two Tomblin administration bills intended to shift a total of $17.3 million to close the budget gap.
That included legislation to move about $13 million a year in sales tax collections for materials used in road building and maintenance from the state Road Fund to general revenue (SB334).
Tomblin officials said they proposed moving the money out of the Road Fund because the fund's other revenue sources are running about 5 percent above projections, at about $18.6 million, spurred primarily by higher than expected vehicle sales.
However, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, said Tuesday senators are reluctant to take any money out of the Road Fund.
"There is a real concern about going in that direction," Beach said, citing the findings of the governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways.
That panel concluded the current Road Fund of about $1.1 billion a year is woefully inadequate to keep up with the state's road building and road maintenance needs. The commission proposed selling $1 billion in road bonds, to be financed by maintaining tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike.
Beach said that under the circumstances, the committee believes it's a bad time to cut funding for state roads, even by $13 million.
"Our message is, we need more money, not less, in highways and the state Road Fund," he said.
The committee also rejected a Tomblin bill to freeze a transfer of $4.3 million a year of corporate net income taxes to the state Port Authority for intermodal projects.
Tuesday's votes come at a time when both houses are balking at a bill that would move $39.12 million of state Lottery appropriations to help balance the general revenue budget (SB385, HB4333).
That was after a House public hearing this month where dozens of representatives of cities and county commissions, and of greyhound and thoroughbred racing interests, all spoke against the bill, which would cut their Lottery subsidies by 15 percent.