|UPDATE 12/9/2016 - Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss warned legislators that there is a "significant structural hole" in the state's finances, which likely will cause a funding shortfall in excess of $400 million in the 2017-18 budget year, with similar deficits projected for several years beyond.|
"If it continues, it doesn't bode well for the state, and it doesn't bode well for state services and programs," Kiss said Thursday. "If you don't fix it, over time, it will devastate the state's finances."
He said he was dismayed that the Legislature, to date, has been unwilling or unable to come up with long-term solutions to address the structural hole in the budget, and likened it to 1989, when the Legislature had to pass nearly $400 million in tax increases after allowing similar financial woes to linger for several years.
The Republican-led legislature appears to be waiting for the rebounding of revenues long provided by the coal industry, will energy officials have indicated that is not likely to happen.
12/7/2016 - WHILE WAITING FOR COAL TO REBOUND
State Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss told state lawmakers Tuesday that if there are no further state budget cuts or tax increases the 2018 fiscal year budget will have a deficit "north of $400 million."
Kiss appeared somewhat reluctant in putting that big number before lawmakers given he doesn't have the revenue estimates for next fiscal year but he gave the number when pressed by House Finance Committee Chair Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha).
According to Kiss, the state's economy is going to bounce back and revenues will increase but the problem is with what Kiss called a "large structural hole" in the form of increased costs in the state budget moving forward for at least the next six years if everything stays the same.
"Our anticipation of the revenues, assuming the revenue estimate is right for 2018, and the time frame at which they come back, will not keep pace with that structural hole," Kiss said.
Kiss reminded lawmakers they have two choices including further budget cuts or tax increases.
In connection with the current state budget, lawmakers were told Tuesday state revenue collections through November, five months of the fiscal year, are now $91.5 million below estimates.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered a two-percent mid-year budget cut last month. Kiss said Tomblin's budget staff will have proposed fixes to fill the revenue hole in the current budget before the governor leaves office in January.