29 May 2009

Legislature 2009: Day 4

With the House and Senate less than $3 million apart on a proposed state budget, a compromise bill is expected some time Friday, The Associated Press reports.

"That would set the stage for weekend votes on the measure," the article said. "The new budget takes effect July 1 and will likely outline $11.5 billion worth of spending, including $4.2 billion backed by general tax and lottery revenues."

The differences arise mostly in the sections funding public schools, higher education, the Department of Health and Human Resources, and "the state Development Office, which oversees several accounts that lawmakers direct to such causes in their home districts as fairs, festivals, local government agencies and non-profits," the article said.

Both AP and the Charleston Daily Mail report on the $51 million cut, found in each chamber's version, that wipes out scheduled payments to a special trust fund meant to cover future non-pension retiree benefits.

"The total owed this 'other post-employment benefits' fund this year is $791 million," the AP article noted.

Others with coverage of the budget bill include Public Broadcasting (updated), MetroNews and The Register-Herald of Beckley.

AP also reports separately that the extended session has remedied errors in 16 of the 20 regular session bills vetoed by Gov. Joe Manchin. Five of those measures were sent back to the governor Thursday. The House is expected to re-pass a 17th, which as AP reports addresses the Chesapeake Bay watershed, following action on it by the Senate.

The Charleston Gazette focuses on one of Thursday's five revived bills, meant to help advocates of metro government in Kanawha County. After some debate, delegates passed it 52-40. It had passed 53-39 during the regular session.

With the extended session winding down, lawmakers await the agenda for the special session they expect Manchin to call once it concludes. MetroNews is among those assessing possible agenda topics.

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