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Editorial: State Budget Not Being Cut

From The Intelligencer of Wheeling:

West Virginia legislators have agreed on a General Revenue Fund budget of $4.228 billion for the fiscal year that begins in two weeks. It happened only after much hand-wringing over alleged cuts in spending that would affect many Mountain State residents adversely.

Look at the figure again and do the math:

Next year: $4.228 billion.

This year: $4.187 billion.

Your subtraction is correct; lawmakers have allocated $41 million more for next year than was budgeted for the current year.

But don’t stop subtracting. Last fall, then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered spending cuts totaling $59 million. That leaves actual spending this year of $4.128 billion, or $100 million less than is appropriated for fiscal 2018.

But state bureaucrats and many legislators insist the budget cuts spending.

It is true that some costs — health insurance and utilities, for example — will be higher next year. So fiscal 2018 dollars will not go as far as money this year. But beyond a few showpiece examples of spending discipline, such as doing away with a few dozen unneeded vehicles, what has state government done to save money?

Don’t get us wrong: Legislators are to be commended highly for insisting on a budget that does not include big tax increases. At one point, Gov. Jim Justice had demanded about $350 million in General Revenue Fund tax hikes.

Republican lawmakers, who control both the state Senate and House of Delegates, have fought Justice on that for months. Good for them for rejecting his doom-and-gloom warnings and his theatrics to avoid tax increases Mountain State residents and businesses cannot afford.

But the attitude that state government always must be given more, more, more without meaningful attempts at controlling the bill for the bureaucracy needs to be changed. Unless that happens, this year’s relief from tax increases will be only a reprieve, not a pardon.

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