EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSTomblin Proposes Pay Raises In Difficult Budget Year
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported: Jan. 9, 2014 7:40 AM EST
Updated: Jan. 9, 2014 9:29 AM EST
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia faces a tough budget year, is losing residents and is slower than other states to recover from the recession. Nonetheless, the state is still strong and getting stronger.
That is the message Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin sent Wednesday during his State of the State address. Comparing governing to gardening, Tomblin said both take "planning, patience and foresight."
Tomblin urged the Legislature to expand educational and economic policies he thinks could help West Virginia emerge from its fiscal woes and help create jobs. He also advocated for teacher and state worker pay raises, despite a $60 million budget deficit.
In a speech that largely highlighted past legislative successes, Tomblin pointed to reductions in business-franchise and corporate income taxes and touted plans for a new ethane cracker plant and three polyethylene plants.
As far as the state’s finances, Tomblin hopes to keep tax rates level amid a budget shortfall by tapping West Virginia's rainy day fund.
The Democrat wants lawmakers to use $148 million in reserves next year's budget. Some $84 million would come from the state's $918 million rainy day fund. The money would cover rising Medicaid costs.
West Virginia has dipped into the fund only during emergencies, never for budget patches.
Tomblin will seek 7.5 percent cuts at state agencies. The proposal shields areas like public education and corrections. Department of Revenue officials said no particular program or agency would be targeted for elimination. Agencies would determine cuts.
The proposal includes slight raises for teachers and state workers.
In education matters, Tomblin said he wants an A-through-F grading system for the state's public schools.
It was one of the proposals he mentioned in Wednesday's State of the State address. Tomblin said it would be a better, more understandable way to measure school achievement and will help engage communities in their schools.
He also said he wants schools to emphasis science, technology, engineering and math courses to better prepare people for a workforce that demands those skills.
And while it's a tight budget year, Tomblin wants to give teachers a 2 percent pay raise.
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