Tough outlook for upcoming legislative session

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Lawmakers and experts painted a tough budget and economic picture for West Virginia before the upcoming legislative session.

During the West Virginia Associated Press Legislative Lookahead Friday, panelists said infrastructure improvements are key, from roads to broadband Internet.

The state faces a $353 million budget shortfall amid fizzling revenues from coal and natural gas production.

One panel said regional solutions are needed for the state’s diverse issues.

Republican Del. Paul Espinosa said lawmakers will likely try to repeal educational standards, even after recent changes. Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said the Common Core debate has distracted from hundreds of teaching vacancies.

Another group discussed imposing forced pooling of oil and natural gas mineral rights when owners are missing or unwilling to participate.

The Republican-led Legislature begins the 60-day annual session Wednesday.

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