Senator Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier) expressed great relief earlier this week that the 2017-18 state fiscal year ended with a surplus large enough to provide $765,000 to the West Virginia Water Gauging Council for life-saving stream gauge enhancements.
“I listened to expert after expert come before the Flood Committee and recommend these improvements to our stream gauge system,” said Baldwin, “which is why I fought so hard both publicly and behind the scenes for this funding.”
The stream gauge system saves lives by helping to alert West Virginians of rapidly rising waters. The additional funding secured with Senator Baldwin’s efforts will expand the current stream gauge system to additional streams throughout the state that are flood prone and currently not monitored. Senator Baldwin made a public plea for the funding on February 12, 2018, during a floor speech in the Senate.
“Quite frankly, I was disappointed that the budget proposals coming from the Finance Committees did not include funding to expand the stream gauge system earlier this year,” Baldwin said. “When I saw that the funding was not in the Budget Bill, I prepared an amendment to the bill to insert the $765,000 for the stream gauge system.”
“After negotiating with legislative leadership, I ultimately reached a compromise where I withdrew the amendment in exchange for language inserted into the Budget Bill to fund the stream gauge system enhancements through surplus revenue, if it was available,” Baldwin continued. “Gov. Justice predicted we would have a surplus. I trusted him on the numbers, and he was right. We ended the year with a surplus. Now we can help with flood mitigation.”
Under state law, the first 50 percent of any surplus general revenue at the end of a fiscal year is deposited into the Revenue Shortfall Reserve Fund, commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund. Thereafter, the Legislature may appropriate the additional surplus in the Budget Bill or through future supplemental appropriations. The final version of the FY2018-19 Budget Bill contained a number of surplus revenue appropriations from FY2017-18 general revenue, if they are available on July 31, 2018. The Governor’s Budget Office announced a general revenue surplus of $20,208,000, which means there is $10,104,000 available for the Legislature’s surplus appropriations. The surplus is more than sufficient to cover the $765,000 for the West Virginia Water Gauging Council, which Baldwin worked to have prioritized.