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Children’s health advocates want funding restored

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A group of children’s health advocates wants the Legislature to restore about $1 million in state funding — vetoed in March by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin — for programs that address child abuse, domestic violence and early childhood health.

Tomblin vetoed the funding, along with millions from other programs, in an effort to limit the money taken from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to about $100 million.

The total cuts amount to only 0.02 percent of the state’s annual budget, what Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, referred to as a “rounding error,” but advocates say will have big effects.

“If I thought the economic effects of these cuts made any sense, then I would be quiet about it,” Guthrie said. “We may end up costing the state more money in the long run than if we restore these cuts.”

Several others, on a conference call set up by the Our Children, Our Future Campaign, echoed that thought, pointing to studies showing that money spent on early childhood programs results in exponential savings down the road on things like health care, lower use of social services and reduced corrections costs.

Tomblin has said that the cuts were difficult but necessary.

“What I’m attempting to do is maintain the balance of the Rainy Day Fund that will keep our bond rating up. The last thing we want to do is overspend the money and watch our bond rating decline, like it did back in the ’80s,” Tomblin said after he made the vetoes in March.

Stephen Smith, director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, said he and others will meet Friday with Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss and Secretary Karen Bowling, of the Department of Health and Human Resources, to discuss reinstating the programs’ funding.

Hallie Mason, Tomblin’s public policy director, said they could not make any decisions until that meeting happens.

“I’ve talked with both secretaries, there’s some ideas floating around, that meeting needs to occur and the secretaries need to advise the governor before we can make any commitments to add anything to the special session,” Mason said.

Kiss chaired a task force on early childhood planning that released a report in January supportive of most of the programs Tomblin cut.

See more at wv.gazette.com


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