Government, Latest News

At the WV Legislature: House Committee on Finance advances six bills to reallocate state funds

By Matt Young, WV Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A total of six bills relating to the reallocation of funding were advanced Monday, during an expedited meeting of the House Committee on Finance. 

HB 3013, which seeks to authorize Jefferson County Commissioners to levy a “special district excise tax,” was first before the committee.

Delegate John Hardy, R-Berkeley

As explained by counsel, “They (Jefferson County Commissioners) may exercise this special district excise tax for the benefit of the Hilltop House Hotel Economic Opportunity District, which they have proposed to create up in Jefferson County.”

According to counsel, the district is comprised of, “approximately 11 continuous acres of land.” A committee substitute to the bill authorizes the Jefferson County Commission to create such a district without the approval of the executive director of the Development Office, and allows the commission to “determine the base tax revenue by working with the tax commissioner.”

Bill co-sponsor Del. John Hardy, R-Berkeley, said, “This is to facilitate the Hilltop House project there in Harper’s Ferry, which really promises to be just a tremendous entryway into the Eastern Panhandle.”

With the bill’s adoption, it will now be reported to the full House of Delegates. 

Next on the agenda was HB 2906, a supplemental appropriations bill which counsel explained as transferring $21,550,000 from the “unappropriated balance in Lottery Net Profits to the unappropriated surplus balance of the state fund general revenue.”

With no questions, discussions or amendment proposals, HB 2906 will now be reported to the full House of Delegates.

Another supplemental appropriations bill, HB 2910, would move $20 million from the unappropriated surplus balance of the state’s general revenue fund, to the Department of Administration’s Public Defender Services for “appointed counsel fees.” 

Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha

Committee Minority Chair Del. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, sought clarification, saying, “I assume that the appointed counsel fees are for private attorneys who are appointed by the court to represent low income folks.”

Counsel confirmed Rowe’s assumption, saying, “That is my understanding.”

As with the previous two bills, HB 2910 will now be reported to the full House of Delegates.

Next up was HB 2915, which, as explained by counsel, “Is another supplementary appropriations bill that expires $30,500,000 from the unappropriated balance in the State Excess Lottery Fund, to the unappropriated surplus balance of the state general revenue fund.”

After the unanimous adoption of HB 2915, counsel explained HB 3072, saying, “The purpose of this [is to] adjust the appropriations of the Division of Administrative Services by decreasing current expenses by $45,000, and moving that same amount by increasing ‘unclassifieds’ by $45,000.”

“This transfer addresses the increase in expenditures, improvements, and needed repairs within the state’s correctional facilities,” counsel concluded.

After counsel’s explanation, Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor, asked, “This is $45,000 to corrections, but we’re going to see other appropriations for that, correct? This is just an excess of $45,000 that we don’t need?”

Delegate Amy Summers, R-Taylor

Counsel replied, “It’s just a transfer of the same amount to another line item within the spending unit.”

After the committee’ unanimous adoption of HB 2915, counsel explained the final bill on the agenda; HB 3396.

“The purpose of this supplemental will provide spending-authority to the Division of Highways by moving money from the State Road Fund to the Department of Transportation Division of Highways,” counsel said.

According to counsel, interstate construction projects would be increased by $35 million, Appalachian programs would be increased by $20 million, and additional federal aid programs would be increased by $25 million. 

“This will pay for projects in progress, and projects planned to start in the current fiscal year,” counsel noted. “This increased spending authority will be reimbursed by the federal government by an average of 90 to 100%”

With no further discussion, HB 2915 was the sixth bill moved by committee to the full House of Delegates.