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Missing state vehicles used as example of W.Va. waste

By JANET METZER

The Weirton Daily Times

CHARLESTON — House Speaker Tim Armstead said missing vehicles that West Virginia registers and insures, but doesn’t know who’s driving them or where they are, is a perfect example of the waste that needs to be eliminated from the state’s government before it increases taxes to ease next year’s $500 million deficit.

“We have such a large, unwieldy government in so many senses, that we don’t even know how many vehicles we have, and where they’re registered,” and who is driving them, said Armstead, R-Kanawha.

Inaccurate records of some vehicles in the state’s fleet are a result of a new program initiated by Gov. Jim Justice, and included in his proposed FY2018 budget, dubbed the Save Our State Budget, or SOS.

It recommends $26.6 million in government spending and program cuts, including a $369,000 vehicle purchase reduction.

On Jan. 19, only three days after his inauguration, Justice announced that he had already cut five vehicles that were previously used by his predecessor’s staff, according to a news release from his office.

During a budget briefing Wednesday, Dave Hardy, state secretary of revenue updated the news media on the progress of that program. “So far, there have been a number of vehicles called back from the fleet, and that fleet is shrinking,”he said.

Vehicle purchase reduction is an example of what Justice said he wanted his entire cabinet to do: “explore new ways to cut waste, no matter how small.”

Justice’s statements such as that one, as well as his campaign promises, led leaders in the Legislature to expect Justice’s proposed budget would contain substantial, deep cuts that would right-size state government, according to Armstead, Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Kanawha, and Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, who is the state majority leader.

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