- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The state anticipates having an extra $44 million next year from better-than-expected investment returns, which will reduce what needs to be drawn from reserves to cover a budget gap, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Tuesday.

At a news conference, the Democratic governor said only $25 million would have to come from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to patch up the 2016 budget.

Last week, Tomblin called for taking almost $69 million out of the reserves in his budget proposal, which anticipated having to bridge a $195 million budget gap.

Those numbers dropped after the Consolidated Public Retirement Board determined that, because of improved investment returns, the state could make lower-than-expected payments into the teacher retirement system, Tomblin said.

The announcement inched Tomblin’s budget closer to what Republican legislative leaders want. Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, and House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, have opposed tapping the Rainy Day Fund at all.

The GOP has secured majorities in the Legislature for the first time in more than eight decades.

“I know my colleagues in the Legislature have concerns about using additional moneys from the Rainy Day Fund,” Tomblin said. “And we’ll continue to work through those concerns and have those discussions.”

Tomblin’s budget plan still would bank on about $72 million in specific cuts from public education, higher education, health and human services. Much of it would come from services already provided in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, Tomblin has said.

The current budget that Tomblin signed uses $100 million from the fund, the first time it’s been tapped to cover a budget gap. Still, the reserves are considered very well-stocked at $856 million.

It’s up to the Republican-led Legislature to craft the state budget during the 60-day session that started last week.

Tomblin can make line-item vetoes after lawmakers pass the budget.

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