26 May 2009

Legislature 2009: The Budget (Updated)

The length of the extended legislative session that begins noon Monday depends at least partly on whether lawmakers adopt the cuts recommended Friday by Gov. Joe Manchin to the budget he proposed back in February.

The Associated Press offers a preview of the spending adjustments sent to legislative leaders last week. Manchin offered the House and Senate ways to trim $184 million from the portion of the budget supported by general tax revenues, and $13 million from the part backed by lottery proceed.

Even with those cuts, those sections of the budget will direct $4.2 billion worth of spending.

AP also reported earlier on the role federal stimulus funds play in the revised state budget. House (Democratic) leaders also indicated that they largely supported most of the cuts that Manchin had recommended at that point.

Update: AP reports that "the remaining recommended cuts include $51.1 million that had been destined for a special trust fund for the non-pension benefits of future public retirees... Manchin also proposed zeroing out $15 million for a reserve account overseen by legislative leaders, and $3.9 million for his own civil contingency fund."

The article continues, "Other budget casualties include the State Police, which face a $1.4 million cut for new vehicle purchases, while the Local Economic Development Assistance program would lose $660,000. The state treasurer's Personal Finance Education Program would take a $250,000 hit, and the office of Miner's Health, Safety and Training would have $249,000 less for staff."

Update II: Others with coverage of the initial work on the revised budget bill include The Charleston Gazette, the Charleston Daily Mail, The Register-Herald of Beckley, MetroNews (with audio) and Public Broadcasting.

The Gazette and Public Broadcasting (with audio) each reported last week that Manchin was considering cutting $250,000 from the Civil Legal Assistance program, citing officials who provide the resulting services.

The program "provides Legal Aid lawyers for domestic violence victims," the Charleston newspaper explained. "The fund currently gets $400,000 in general revenue funds, plus about $300,000 in revenue from court-related fees."

The Gazette followed up with word from the governor that the program's funding would remain intact.

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