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Editorial: Limit government spending in WV

From The Weirton Daily Times:

Statutory limits on government growth, as West Virginia House of Delegates member Pat McGeehan envisions, are not a bad idea. Convincing his fellow legislators to adopt them is another story, however.

McGeehan, R-Hancock, plans to try that when lawmakers convene their next regular session early in 2018. He told our reporter he wants a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” to be the law of the land in the Mountain State.

His proposal is to link government spending and taxation to population and the inflation rate. More people and increased costs for state government would allow higher spending and taxation to support it.

But even as the state’s population remains stagnant or, as in recent years, declines, the cost of government has increased substantially. For a time, so did state employment.

Though discussion of state spending usually focuses on the general revenue fund, it is only about one-third of the total spent in Charleston. Additional funding comes from the federal government, legalized gambling and other sources.

During fiscal 2013, state government’s total spending was about $11.66 billion. For the current year, fiscal 2018, the budgeted amount is about $12.77 billion.

But in fiscal 2013, that $11.66 billion supported nearly 1,100 more state employees. In May of that year, total state employment, calculated as full-time equivalents, was about 38,035.

Forced austerity, in part due to mid-year spending cuts, has taken the number down to about 36,936.

When state government has to save money, it can. But without some mandatory limit, officials have no incentive to economize. The bureaucrats will fight McGeehan’s proposal tooth and nail — but it is worth a try.

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