House Democrats Question Republican Budget Priorities

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House Democrats Question Republican Budget Priorities

March 5, 2020

For Immediate Release: 03/04/2020

Contact: Delegate Mick Bates, (304) 673-7197

House Democrats Question Republican Budget Priorities

The Democratic Caucus in the West Virginia House of Delegates is questioning Republican priorities after a protracted floor debate on Wednesday afternoon about the state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2020.

“Republican leadership has chosen to pass a budget before we’ve finished reviewing bills with fiscal impact,” said Delegate Mick Bates (D-Raleigh), Minority Chair of the House Finance Committee. “They’ve done this for the past two years, and it leaves us trying to pass bills on the final days of the session that we’re told we can’t pass because the budget has already been finalized. Last year, it meant less money to cut taxes on Social Security for our seniors; this year it could result in failure to clear the I/DD Waiver Waitlist or provide additional funding for foster care families.” 

Democrats offered twelve amendments to the bill. They would have funded varied programs, including the “Drug-Free Mother Baby” program, the Domestic Violence Legal Fund, WV food banks across the state, a summer jobs program for at-risk youth, bulletproof vests for WV State Police, a new nursing home for Veterans in southern West Virginia, and additional funds for secondary road maintenance. 

“We are proud of the amendments that our Caucus offered to the state budget today,” said Delegate Lisa Zukoff (D-Marshall).  “We have been working off the same idea all session – that it’s time to put West Virginians first.”

One of the biggest areas of contention was the large amount of money that has accrued over the years in the state’s Medicaid Medical Services Fund – $309M.=

“The whole budget process has devolved into a game of hide-and-seek this year,” said Delegate Jason Barrett (D-Berkeley), Minority Vice-Chair of the House Finance Committee. “We’re told we have enough money in Medicaid to lock $309M of it away, but then we give the fund another $17M anyway. There’s another $95.8M that has been appropriated out of Medicaid that we’ve been told is going to ‘other state needs,’ but no one will tell us what those needs were. What became apparent today was that our priorities are not their priorities.”

Other Democrats agreed. 

“West Virginia has one of the largest Rainy Day Funds in the country compared to our annual budget,” said Delegate Cindy Lavender-Bowe (D-Greenbrier). “And we are proud of that. But when you keep putting more money into savings while your people are struggling to put food on their table, your priorities are upside down. It is not fiscally responsible to risk West Virginian’s lives today to prepare for the ‘what ifs’ of a five-year plan.”

Delegate Doug Skaff (D-Kanawha), agrees. “For a party that says they want West Virginia to be a place to live, work, and raise a family,” he said, “Republican’s funding priorities are backward. We’ve seen tax credits pass the House this year that are unlimited for out-of-state corporations who make millions in profits every year, but we can’t find the money to help fund these programs? It’s wrong.” 


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