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WVa Senate weighs cutting $28M from current budget

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The West Virginia Senate set the stage Monday to cut $28 million from current state spending, responding to faltering general tax revenues and following up on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's recent hiring freeze.

Funding sought by lawmakers for projects in their districts and a premium subsidy for the Public Employees Insurance Agency are among the biggest targets in the supplemental measure drafted and advanced by the Senate Finance Committee.

Slated for a Wednesday vote on Senate passage, the bill reduces the general revenue budgets for the governor's office and his Cabinet. Finance committee members were told Tomblin asked his department secretaries to identify spending slated for the final three months of the budget year that can be delayed until after June 30.

That's when the current budget year ends. State revenue official had earlier estimated that tax collections for the year would total $4.14 billion. But April began with revenues $49 million behind, after March saw the third straight month of missed projections.

About one-fourth of the cuts come from the Department of Commerce, mostly from a $4.3 million hit to local economic development assistance. The Department of Administration, which includes PEIA, accounts for another 21 percent. Military Affairs and Public Safety would cut 11 percent of the bill's total, with the State Police shedding $1 million budgeted for communications.

Monday's bill also reflects Tomblin's March 19 order to halt hiring and leave vacancies unfilled until June 30, with exceptions allowed on a case-by-case basis. That order accounts for about $8.8 million of the bill's cuts. Around $2.7 million of that reflect personnel spending cuts for the Department of Revenue and its Tax Division.