Latest News, Opinion

Editorial: W.Va. budget crisis —  Cooler heads need to prevail

From the Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

Yes, West Virginia is once again facing a serious budget crisis with a shortfall estimated around $500 million. Yes, lawmakers need to pass a budget — preferably sooner than later. And yes, Gov. Jim Justice is correct in urging prompt action on the issue.

However, there is no need to panic just yet. There is still ample time remaining in the session for lawmakers to approve a balanced budget. The regular session isn’t scheduled to end until midnight April 8.

Passing a budget is a process that takes time. Ultimately there will have to be give and take on both sides — and this includes agreeing on painful budget cuts, as well as ways to generate new revenue.

With that being said, the decision Tuesday by Justice to activate the State of Emergency light on top of the Capitol dome in Charleston seems to be more of a theatrical move than a logical one. It is worth noting that the last time this emergency light was activated was during the deadly floods of 2016.

Saying the state is facing “an absolute health emergency,” Justice wants the emergency light on 24 hours a day until the budget crisis is resolved. He points to proposed cuts in education and Medicaid, along with $50 million in proposed cuts to the Department of Health and Human Resources, which Justice says could mean a reduction in age disabled waiver services to thousands of West Virginians or closing senior centers.

“If we do the wrong thing in the state, it’s going to hurt so many people it’s unbelievable,” Justice said.

Justice adds he is making his office available beginning at 9 a.m. each day for lawmakers to come to an agreement with the budget.

“This office needs to be headquarters and a war room,” he said. “We need to lock the doors and not come out until we get a compromised budget for people and done in the correct way.”

But his characterization of the more conservative budget framework proposed by Republican lawmakers as “cowardly” is drawing criticism from legislative leaders.

House Speaker Tim Armstead says his chamber is well on its way to passing legislation needed to balance the state budget. He argues that the activation of the emergency light by the governor is disrespectful to flood victims.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael adds Justice is trying to scare the public into believing that tax increases are needed.

One thing is apparent. Lawmakers and the governor are still far apart on a budget agreement.

Both sides should drop the theatrics and politics and buckle down to begin the hard work of avoiding a potentially crippling budget impasse.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address