Happy 4th of July!

Lucy Boettner shows her patriotic spirit

Happy 4th of July from all of us at the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy!

West Virginia Flood Recovery: How to Help/How to Get Help

Questions about where to get flood recovery assistance? Want to volunteer? The West Virginia Nonprofit Association has set up this page with lots of helpful information and county-by-county resources.

Lunch and Learn – July 13

Several states will vote this November on whether or not to legalize marijuana. If West Virginia passed such a measure, what would it mean for the state’s budget? Find out at our next Lunch and Learn on July 13 from 11:30AM – 1:00PM at the West Virginia Covenant House. Bring your lunch and join in on the conversation! 

It’s Shark Week: Please Take This Quick Action Against Predatory Lending!

It’s Shark Week! The real dangerous sharks are not in the sea, but in our neighboring states, stripping billions of dollars from families and their communities.

This year, while we celebrate the fact that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has proposed a new rule to keep loan sharks at bay, we have work to do. The rule as proposed contains loopholes that will still let loan sharks take a bite out of consumers.

Add your voice now to stop the debt trap!

Payday loans notoriously carry 300+% APR (annual percentage rate). Strategically located in low-income neighborhoods, payday lenders intentionally trap borrowers in debt that they cannot escape. The average payday borrower is trapped by ten transactions in a year.

Though West Virginia does not legalize these predatory loans, we still need a strong rule. Payday lenders will use a weak rule to seek a green light to come into West Virginia.

Support a strong rule to stop these predatory practices.

Great Communities Start With Good Conversation

So, We Have a Budget – What’s In It, What’s Not?

Didn’t have time to follow the twists and turns of the Special Session? Confused as to what’s in (and out of) the final West Virginia budget? Here’s Sean’s breakdown including what was in the governor’s original budget and what the final numbers look like.

Lunch and Learn – July 13

Mark your calendars for the next Lunch and Learn, July 13 from 11:30AM – 1:00PM at the West Virginia Covenant House. July’s topic: How Legalizing Marijuana Would Impact West Virginia’s Economy.

Plan to join us the second Wednesday of each month! 

Speak Out Against Predatory Lending!

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released proposed rules that, if strengthened, could rein in the worst abuses of payday and car-title lending. Thankfully West Virginia protects against abusive payday loans, but the CFPB still needs to hear from you.

Add your voice now to stop the debt trap!

Payday loans notoriously carry 300+% APR (annual percentage rate). Strategically located in low-income neighborhoods, payday lenders intentionally trap borrowers in debt that they cannot escape. The average payday borrower is trapped by ten transactions in a year.

Though West Virginia does not legalize these predatory loans, we still need a strong rule. Payday lenders will use a weak rule to seek a green light to come into West Virginia.

Support a strong rule to stop these predatory practices. 

Our Children Our Future Workshops – Register Today!

Registration is open for the 2016 Civic Engagement Workshops, where you can will learn what your organization can and can’t do during the election, attend a workshop to learn more about the 18 key issues on the Our Children Our Future platfrom, and get trained on how to do voter registration, voter turnout or candidate forums in your area.

Register now for: Martinsburg on July 21st OR Morgantown on July 28th OR Oak Hill on August 5th.

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Great Communities Start With Good Conversation

 

What the Final 2017 Budget Looks Like and Where the Money Comes From

After their first attempt did not survive the governor’s veto, the legislature finally passed a budget for FY 2017 last week, bringing an end to the budget standoff and an extended special legislative session. While the legislature’s previous attempt relied almost entirely on the Rainy Day Fund and one-time transfers, the final version uses a mix of new revenue, directed transfers, and a smaller amount from the Rainy Day fund to close the $270 million gap. Here’s a brief overview of how the final budget differs from the governor’s original proposal.

On the revenue side, Governor Tomblin proposed several revenue options for the legislature to consider, including a $0.45/pack increase in the tobacco tax and a 1% increase in the sales tax. After initially failing to pass any revenue enhancements, the legislature passed a $0.65/pack increase in the tobacco tax, as well as tax increases on other tobacco products. The changes are expected to produce about $100 million in new revenue.

On the General Revenue side of the budget, the major difference from the governor’s proposal is in Medicaid, with less General Revenue funding for the health insurance program in the final budget than in the governor’s proposal. Instead, that funding will be made up with transfer from the Rainy Day Find and special revenue accounts.

The legislature also included a number of cuts throughout the budget, above the $160 million in cuts and adjustments in the governor’s proposal. These include cuts of $427,000 to the Department of Agriculture, $5 million from the Division of General Services, $2.5 million from the Development Office, $2.8 million from the Department of Education, $1.6 million from the Department of Education and the Arts, $786,000 from the Division of Juvenile Services, and $390,000 from the Department of Transportation, which includes the elimination of funding for the Public Port Authority.

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In the Lottery Funds, there were a few changes from the governor’s proposal. Cuts were made to the Division of Tourism for advertising, as a well as to the Division of Culture and History, including a $185,000 cut to fairs and festivals. Major changes to the Lottery Funds include reducing the transfer to the Infrastructure Council by $10 million and reducing the greyhound racing subsidies by $4.1 million, instead using the combined $14.1 million for Medicaid.

Other major changes from the governor’s proposal came from other and special revenue accounts. The final FY 2017 budget uses $70 million from the Rainy Day Fund and about $19 million in directed transfers from various special revenue accounts. These funds, too, are used for Medicaid, reducing the General Revenue appropriation, and for the newly created PEIA stability fund, to help offset PEIA premium increases. $15 million was appropriated for the PEIA stability fund.

A line-by-line comparison of the final FY 2017 budget with the governor’s proposal can be downloaded here: fy17 final

Governor Signs Budget Bill

Your #dontshutdownmystate texts and posts worked!

As we mentioned in last week’s Budget Beat, the Senate and House agreed to raise the tobacco tax by 65-cents/pack, forging a compromise to raise much-needed revenue and balance the budget with less reliance on the Rainy Day Fund.

Today, Governor Tomblin signed the resulting budget bill (SB 1013) passed earlier this week. To fill the $270 million budget shortfall, this new version takes $70 million from the Rainy Day Fund, and includes $98 million in tobacco taxes along with additional budget cuts. Read more here from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy on how other states are dealing with their own budget issues.

While it is great news that a government shut down has been avoided, there were still substantial budget cuts made by the legislature and the governor to fill the huge budget gap. This week the Division of Forestry announced, then cancelled, plans to lay off 37 workers. Affected employees protested, causing officials to delay their decision which comes as a reaction to $1.7 million in budget cuts to their department. Here’s more in this week’s Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Speak Out Against Predatory Lending!

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released proposed rules that, if strengthened, could rein in the worst abuses of payday and car-title lending. Thankfully West Virginia protects against abusive payday loans, but the CFPB still needs to hear from you.

Add your voice now to stop the debt trap!

Payday loans notoriously carry 300+% APR (annual percentage rate). Strategically located in low-income neighborhoods, payday lenders intentionally trap borrowers in debt that they cannot escape. The average payday borrower is trapped by ten transactions in a year.

Though West Virginia does not legalize these predatory loans, we still need a strong rule. Payday lenders will use a weak rule to seek a green light to come into West Virginia.

Support a strong rule to stop these predatory practices.

 

Last Chance For Free Summer Policy Institute T-Shirt!

The first-ever Summer Policy Institute (SPI) is right around the corner, taking place at WV Wesleyan College from July 29-31.

We need your help! To ensure that all students can attend, we need sponsorships from organizations and individuals.

For a limited time, if you sponsor at a level of $100 or more you will receive our inaugural t-shirt.

Please go here to donate or email Linda for more information.

Thank you for your support!

Don’t Shut Down My State

Today, a coalition of statewide organizations came together to take action on the looming fears of a state government shutdown. The politics no longer matter. The real issue of jobs and services to our citizens has hit a boiling point.

“When we consider the extent to which citizens depend on our state government services we begin to understand the catastrophe that could unfold should a shutdown occur,” stated Ted Boettner, WVCBP Executive Director.

Legislators passed a budget bill last Friday after three weeks of debate during a Special Session. Their version drew too heavily from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for Governor Earl Ray Tomblin who vetoed the budget this week. The state’s fiscal year ends June 30 and without a budget, the government faces a likely shutdown of essential services and agencies upon which we all depend.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Share this Action Alert. Paste this link into your own e-mail blasts and Facebook posts. Be sure to add your name as well!

2. Make a personal video. Here’s a sample from Stephen Smith with West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition. Tell your story about how the shutdown would affect you!

3. Facebook memes. Post the one below, and include the action alert link, or make your own.

4. Blast to twitter! Here are some sample tweets.

[Say why this matters to you.] This is not a game. #dontshutdownmystate

[Write why this matters to you personally.] It’s time to govern. #dontshutdownmystate

 

Welcome, Kat!

Kathleen (Kat) Stoll has joined our team to work on an analysis of potential new sources of state funding to support Medicaid. The project is funded by the Benedum Foundation and the Sisters Health Foundation.

Kat is a West Virginia resident and former Deputy Director of Families USA, a national health care consumer advocacy voice based in D.C. She has a masters degree in economics and has been an attorney specializing in health care policy for over 30 years. Her analysis will provide a menu of options that the Medicaid Coalition can discuss and consider supporting.

She will support and lead our work with West Virginians for Affordable Health Care as we move forward on this important project. When she’s not doing work from her home office in Morgan County, Kathleen raises horses and hay, and plays with her nephew Liam.


West Virginia Anti-Poverty Activist Goes to DC

This week Sabrina Schrader, Vice President of the Our Children Our Future campaign, testified before a committee in Washington, DC reminding them of the deep generational poverty in West Virginia. She went there to support funding for roads and high-speed Internet as laid out in Senator Sanders Rebuild America Act. Great job, Sabrina! Watch her presentation.

Send a Student to SPI – Get a T-Shirt!

The first-ever Summer Policy Institute (SPI) is right around the corner, taking place at WV Wesleyan College from July 29-31.

The SPI will bring together highly qualified undergraduate and graduate students for a three-day learning experience, where participants are given an opportunity to become better informed about vital West Virginia specific policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders, and prepare for their future studies and work in policy-related fields.

We need your help! To ensure that all students can attend, it is imperative that we have sponsorships from organizations and individuals.

For a limited time, if you sponsor at a level of $100 or more you will receive our inaugural t-shirt.

Please go here to donate or email Linda.

Thank you for your support!

A Budget Has Been Passed, but a Veto is Expected

After nearly three weeks of a special session, the legislature finally passed a budget for FY 2017 last week. However, it did not pass any of the revenue measures proposed by the governor to close the budget’s $270 million gap, instead deciding to close it by relying heavily on the Rainy Day Fund and other one-time sources of revenue, as well as spending cuts beyond the governor’s proposal.

The governor is expected to veto the legislature’s budget due to its heavy reliance on the Rainy Day Fund. The legislature’s budget transfers $191 million from the Rainy Day Fund, which accounts for the largest departure from the governor’s proposal, as well as $62 million in one-time transfers from various special revenue accounts.

The legislature also included a small number of budget cuts beyond what the governor recommended. These include cuts of $259,000 to Executive branch agencies, $6.3 million to the Department of Administration, $3.5 million to the Department of Commerce, $2.9 million to the Department of Education, $5 million to the Department of Education and the Arts, $133,000 to the Department of Environmental Protection, $1.2 million to Military Affairs and Public Safety, $6.9 million to the Department of Revenue, $390,000 to the Department of Transportation, and $210,000 to the Department of Veterans’ Assistance.

A line-by-line comparison of the governor’s proposal and the budget passed by the legislature can be downloaded here: FY2017 comparison hb 101 passed.

Legislature Sends Its Budget to the Governor

Legislature’s Bill Likely to Draw Governor’s Veto

After nearly three weeks of debate on how to close the $270+ million budget gap, the House and Senate agreed on legislation Thursday that would raise no new revenues and draw heavily from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Governor Tomblin has promised to veto any such bill and the Legislature may not have the votes to override it if he does.

If the governor were to sign the bill, it would avert a government shutdown on July 1. The bill, however, does little to solve the structural problems with the state’s finances and an even bigger deficit is likely to face legislators next year.

Here is more in today’s Charleston Gazette-Mail.

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Reminder: Lunch and Learn This Monday!

The WVCBP is excited to partner with the West Virginia Covenant House to begin a monthly series of Lunch and Learn events, beginning June 8, 2016 from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm (BYOL). We are working together to continue our missions of educating and advocating for shared prosperity for families throughout West Virginia.

This Monday, Renate Pore will lead a discussion on “A Bridge to the Middle Class: The Impact of Medicaid and the Medicaid Expansion in West Virginia.”

Bring your lunch and join us! For more information, email Tara.

Send a Student to SPI – Get A T-Shirt!

The first-ever Summer Policy Institute (SPI) is right around the corner taking place at WV Wesleyan College at the end of July.

The SPI will bring together highly qualified undergraduate and graduate students for a three-day learning experience, where participants are given an opportunity to become better informed about vital West Virginia specific policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders, and prepare for their future studies and work in policy-related fields.

Funding for the SPI will come from foundations, organizations and individual donors. We need your help!

For a limited time, if you sponsor at a level of $100 or more you will receive our inaugural t-shirt.

Please go here to donate or email Linda.

Thank you for your support!

Sign On Your Organization to Support New Overtime Rule

In its recently announced final regulation, the Department of Labor raised the salary threshold below which most workers are eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476. This change will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, extend overtime protections to millions of workers, reduce excessive hours of unpaid work by underpaid employees, and increase salaries for employees earning near the new threshold. In particular, this rule represents an important step toward fairer pay for women and people of color, who are overrepresented in lower-paying jobs and are often required to work additional hours without compensation.

Please sign on your organization in support of this new regulation.

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Budget Impasse Stretches into Week Two

House Fails to Pass Senate’s Tax Increase Bill

On Tuesday, the House of Delegates took up the Senate’s bill (SB 1005) that would have increased the tax on cigarettes by 45-cents a pack, revenue-generating measure to help balance the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. After much debate and discussion about whether or not to include other tobacco products, as well as whether or not to even increase the tax at all, the House voted 44-55 to defeat the bill.

This sent legislators back to the drawing board on figuring out how to solve the ongoing budget impasse.

Today both houses passed their own version of the state budget sending them to each other for consideration when they reconvene on Tuesday. The Senate version, SB 1002, helps close the current year’s (FY 2016) budget gap. The bill takes $32 million from the Rainy Day Fund and redirects $31 million from various funds to close the FY 2016 gap.

The House version, HB 101, contains $200 million in cuts and takes $143 million from the Rainy Day Fund, with no new revenues. Governor Tomblin would likely veto it if it passes both houses.

Both the Senate and House have adjourned for the holiday weekend. Tune into next week’s Budget Beat a recap of week #3 of the Special Session!

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Lunch and Learn!

The WVCBP is excited to partner with the Covenant House to begin a monthly series of Lunch and Learn events, beginning June 8, 2016 from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm (BYOL). We are working together to continue our missions of educating and advocating for shared prosperity for families throughout West Virginia.

The mission and vision of our organizations fosters a holistic progress for our most vulnerable populations through Covenant House’s direct services and the Center’s policy analysis and research. We look forward to hosting these Lunch and Learn events together and offering networking, resources, and rich learning experiences that will move us together toward a shared, prosperous future.

Bring your lunch and join us! For more information, email Tara.


Our Achievements from 2015

The WVCBP is proud to release its 2015 Annual Report.

It was a great year for us with the addition of two new staff, sustainable funding from regional and national foundations and record-setting outreach in the state’s media markets.

Thank you for your support and readership!

Read the full report.

First Week on Budget Special Session Wraps Up

Today the West Virginia legislature wraps up its first week of work on passing a state budget. The most notable accomplishment was the Senate passage of SB 1005 which would raise the tobacco tax by 45-cents/pack. The bill was read for the first time in the House today.

During the Senate debate on the measure, Senator Ron Miller (D-Greenbrier) tried to amend the bill to increase the tax by an additional 55-cents with the extra revenue to be earmarked to fund a state Earned Income Tax Credit. Watch clip of Senator Miller’s floor speech here.

Next week the legislature will continue its work on proposals that were part of Governor Tomblin’s special session call. While the state desperately needs additional revenue, the governor’s tax increases disproportionately ask more from low-income people than the wealthy. Read Sean’s blog post for more information.

The governor’s ideas to fill the budget gap total less than the major tax cuts of the past. Beginning in 2007, West Virginia enacted a number of major tax cuts, including phasing out the grocery tax on food and the business franchise tax, reducing the corporate net income tax rate from 9 to 6.5 percent, and making some cuts to the personal income tax. All these cuts, along with a drop in energy prices, have helped blow a huge hole in the state’s budget. Here’s more in Ted’s blog post.

West Virginia Cuts to Higher Education Among Worst in the Country

At a time when most states are restoring funding to higher education that was cut during the Great Recession, a new report shows that West Virginia is going in the opposite direction, with troubling consequences. The result is skyrocketing tuition increases, over 42% since 2008, making college harder and harder to afford, especially for low-income families.

Here’s more in today’s Charleston Gazette-Mail

Welcome Tara and Jesús!

This week we welcomed our two summer interns, Tara Holmes and Jesús Ballesteros.

Tara is a PhD student in Cultural Analysis and Theory at Stony Brook University in New York. Her research interests include analyzing and critiquing the effects of neoliberalism on marginalized populations, particularly working-class women and women of color. She is a native of Sissonville, West Virginia. Tara’s work as a Summer Policy Associate will have her focusing on paid sick days and family leave policies as well as gathering data for the 2016 State of Working West Virginia report.

Jesús is currently double majoring Computer Science and Computer Engineering at WVU Tech in Montgomery, WV. Last year he worked on a research project of parallel computing and is currently a teacher assistant tutoring students on programming classes. He is a native of Spain. His work this summer as a Summer Research Associate will include designing a website containing historical information on West Virginia budgets and funding priorities.

West Virginia’s Workers to Benefit Most from New Overtime Rule

This week, the Labor Department issued its final rule updating overtime regulations, which will automatically extend overtime protections to millions of workers in its first year of implementation.

The rule extends overtime protections to workers earning less than $913 per week or $47,476 annually for a full-time worker, and established a mechanism to update the threshold every three years.

Here’s more in Sean’s blog post.


Got an iPhone? Thank Government-Funded Ingenuity


Try This Conference – Just Two Weeks Away!

It’s not too late to register for the annual Try This conference in Buckhannon taking place June 3-4.

Here’s what’s in store:

  • Trade ideas with people from all over the state who are doing great things.
  • Get inspired, learn, plan your next steps.
  • Apply for a minigrant for your healthier-community project!
  • Help build a statewide movement!
  • Have lots of fun.

Go here to register and/or learn more.

Thousands of West Virginians Now Eligible for Overtime

Yesterday, the Labor Department issued its final rule updating overtime regulations, which will automatically extend overtime protections to millions of workers in its first year of implementation. The rule extends overtime protections to workers earning less than $913 per week or $47,476 annually for a full-time worker, and established a mechanism to update the threshold every three years.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers eligible for overtime must be paid “time-and-a-half” or 1.5 times their regular pay rate for each hour of work per week over 40 hours. Currently, hourly workers in most service and blue-collar jobs are guaranteed the right to overtime pay.

For salaried workers, the right to overtime is determined by their pay and nature of work. Currently, salaried workers who earn below $455/week ($23,660/year) are eligible for overtime, but workers who earn more than $455/week can be exempted from overtime if their occupations are considered professional, administrative, or executive.

The current salary threshold has not kept pace with inflation or the changing economy. In 1975, the overtime salary threshold covered about 62 percent of all salaried workers, compared to just 8% today. Had the threshold kept pace with inflation since 1975, it would be about $52,000 today. The proposed threshold largely restores its lost value.

The new rule means that millions of workers will get raises to put them over the threshold, be paid overtime for their overtime work, or have the weekly hours scaled back to normal full-time levels.

Overall, there are about 12.5 million salaried workers making at least $455/week (the old threshold) and $913/week (the new threshold), who will benefit from the rule change, including 66,000 in West Virginia. Of the 50 states, West Virginia has the biggest share of salaried workers (30.7%) who will directly benefit from raising the threshold.