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Editorial: Cuts to cost more than pretty penny

The Dominion Post of Morgantown:
Never mind that everyone told us we cannot cut our way to prosperity. Don’t confuse us with facts.

The Legislature had already made up its mind.

Overall, the state budget that will become law today — without Gov. Jim Justice’s signature — contains more than three times the funding cuts he proposed.

That translates into $130 million more — $186 million, total — than the $56 million Justice proposed.

Higher education, public education and Medicaid were always at the center of spending cuts throughout the Legislature’s sessions.

But at the end of the day last Friday, cuts for higher education were far less than originally proposed.

Public education funds were by and large spared, though a pay raise for teachers to help fill the more than 700 vacancies statewide failed.

And with a few exceptions, this budget protects Medicaid funding and should meet the federal government’s match.

However, a lot of other stones did not go unturned in this spending plan, including cultural, educational and tourism programs.

For instance, historic preservation grants and funding for fairs and festivals will suffer spending cuts in the
20 percent range. Other, separate cuts to the State Fair and the Mountain State Forest Festival total about 20 percent.

The West Virginia Public Theater among others, along with the Wheeling and Huntington symphonies, will also face 20 percent cuts.

The Educational Broadcasting Authority, which at one time was targeted for zero state funding but had its funding restored by Justice, still did not fare well.

When the static cleared last week, a 22 percent reduction in its funding still towered over its future — from $4.56 million to $3.62 million.

And adding insult to injury, the Division of Tourism’s advertising budget was cut by nearly 70 percent.

Never mind that tourism is one of the state’s few growing industries and that Justice proposed its budget actually get a big boost.

Many of these cuts might appear to make sense for the state of fiscal crisis we live in today.

Some will argue that such services and programs are hardly essential when you’re staring down a fiscal hole.

Others boast that this budget puts no additional tax burden on residents.

Yet, we cannot help but think that raising the state sales tax from 6 to 6.25 percent, as Justice once proposed would not burden anyone.

While that additional penny on every $4 spent would have in large part spared these services and programs

No, you may not be able to spend your way to prosperity, either. But ultimately, these cuts will cost us more than a pretty penny.

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