No budget deal, but Justice hopeful as regular session ends

Ellen Mills
April 10, 2017

The West Virginia Senate has passed a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients and would establish a system to regulate medical marijuana within the state.

On Saturday, the House voted 82-17 for the Senate version that allows only a judge to waive parental notification.

The budget bill as passed included $90 million in cuts and about $90 million from the Rainy Day Fund. The bill is headed to Gov. Jim Justice's desk now; he is expected to sign it, making West Virginia the 30th state to legalize marijuana in some capacity.

For the month of March, general revenue fund collections were $331.5 million, $26.3 million above the original budget estimate.

The House previously voted unanimously to require a psychiatrist or licensed psychologist make that determination.

He proposed increasing the gasoline tax by 4.5 cents a gallon and raising some Department of Motor Vehicle fees and expressway tolls to support bonds issued over four years.

Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, who chairs the House Finance committee, said earlier Saturday that leadership was looking to bring the best product forward.

Appearing in Wheeling, where one of the state's two dog tracks is located, Justice says he won't let the Legislature walk away from an industry that provides 1,700 jobs. "Republicans had 60 days to finish budget". He asked if Carmichael had received a copy.

Justice said it also calls for eliminating personal income tax.

Republicans wanted more cuts and no tax increases while the governor's proposal was almost $4.4 billion, of which about $220 million was from higher taxes.

"In a time when we need to invest in higher education to kick start this economy, we're turning around and are going to cut", said Prezioso, D-Marion. The first bracket begins January 1, 2018 and calls for taking personal income tax down 20 percent of its current rate.

At midnight we are "getting this shoved down our throats", he said.

Traditionally, on the last day of the regular session, the Legislature puts the budget bill into a House-Senate conference committee, which spends three to as many as eight days in extended session to work out an agreement on the spending plan. "They want us to live within our means".

The bill passed 96-0.

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