By Jeff Sandy
Secretary of W.Va. Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety
As a history buff, I have long believed that we should learn from the good and bad decisions of the men and women who preceded us. We have all known people who feel they can get another year out of their 30-year-old roof that’s leaking, or a few more miles from a set of bald tires.
Such decisions invite bad outcomes. The budget that legislators had proposed for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety is even more dangerous than placing a bucket under the leak or leaving bald tires on your daughter’s car. Both need to be fixed or you risk facing expensive and dire consequences.
The budget approved by the Senate and House of Delegates, which was then vetoed by Governor Justice, would have resulted in a $9.4 million reduction for Military Affairs and Public Safety when compared to what the governor had introduced.
West Virginia’s Division of Corrections would have been hit with $7.2 million of that budget cut, at a time when it struggles to recruit and keep employees and has hard-working, full-time employees who qualify for government assistance. A recent study Our correctional facilities, meanwhile, await a combined $100 million worth of repairs to roofs that should have been replaced or fixed years ago, among other structural issues.
The Division of Corrections has shifted money meant for unfilled positions to pay its operating bills since 2010, to make up for the lack of funding in that part of its budget. This presents a danger to public safety and the represents the worst scenario of kicking the can down the road. At the heart of this situation is the lives of correctional officers and inmates.
I have traveled the world, and can declare with confidence that the West Virginia National Guard is the best of the best. The work that they have performed, for example, in response to natural disasters speaks for itself. Rightfully, they are heroes to the flood victims in West Virginia. They need money to refit and repair and to prepare for the next disaster, but instead would have received a $478,409 reduction in their budget.
Just as lawmakers talked about helping our correctional officers, only to cut their budget, our legislators discussed giving our State Police enough money for a new cadet class and then delivered to them a nearly $1 million budget reduction.
Other offices and agencies within Military Affairs and Public Safety were to receive reductions totaling $660,572. These included the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center, which works with law enforcement both here and across the country, and the Homeland Security State Administrative Agency that helps first responders throughout West Virginia obtain needed equipment and training. Both agencies were formed after 9/11 to prevent terrorist attacks and have been very successful. To cut the budgets of these agencies is very risky.
I submit to the citizens of West Virginia that a roof with holes in it is fine until it rains; but public safety does not have the luxury to place buckets under its problems and wait for the repairman. Public safety is the repairman. We cannot allow anything to hinder the repairman, because he or she needs to respond 24/7 and be at peak performance.
WVDMAPS Divisions and Agencies:
Adjutant General/National Guard (WVNG); Corrections (DOC); Justice & Community Services (DJCS); Juvenile Services (DJS); State Fire Marshal; Homeland Security & Emergency Management (DHSEM); Homeland Security State Administrative Agency (HS-SAA); Parole Board; Professional Development Center (PDC); Protective Services/Capitol Police; Regional Jail & Correctional Facility Authority (RJA); State Police; and the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center.