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Editorial: Take Time to Get The Budget Right

From the Wheeling News-Register:

Differences in budget bills approved by the West Virginia House of Delegates and the state Senate last week were not of the kind that can be reconciled with just a few hours of negotiations — at least, not prudently. For example, the House budget at one point contained no funding for either the Division of Culture and History or the Department of Education and the Arts. Senators had approved money for both agencies.

That is not to mention the difference in money involved in the two budget bills. The Senate’s called for $4.102 billion in spending. The House sought $4.246 billion. Reflect that the decimal points here translate to a difference of $144 million.

Gov. Jim Justice wants more than either house. Though details of his proposal changed frequently, at one point he was seeking a $4.5 billion budget with $450 million in new taxes.

One striking aspect of the House and Senate budgets is that both include spending discipline — but in several cases, the two proposals include very different line item reductions. Our impression is that it is possible by combining spending cuts from both bills to get the general revenue budget down to $4.05 billion, or at least close to that.

That level of spending could (see editorial below) negate any need for higher taxes.

That should be legislators’ goal, despite the governor’s threats to veto any budget not in keeping with his big-spending philosophy. And lawmakers should take their time to hash out a responsible budget, despite Justice’s criticism of their failure to have a spending plan enacted on his schedule.

The men and women we West Virginians elected to the Legislature work for us, after all, not Justice.

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