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W.Va. budget cuts expected to hurt services

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Many government agencies in West Virginia likely will struggle to deliver services after being hit with a fourth consecutive year of mandatory spending cuts, state Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss said Tuesday.

The agencies are expected to postpone construction and renovation projects, eliminate vacant positions and stop non-essential travel following a 4 percent budget reduction announced by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin earlier this week.

A projected $250 million shortfall in revenue collections — mostly blamed on an “unprecedented” drop in coal and natural gas severance taxes — prompted Tomblin to order the spending cuts.

“If you turn to these agencies, that now have seen several years of successive cuts, we believe we’re getting to the point where it’s going to be a close-run game, in terms of the delivery of services and programs,” Kiss said. “It’s going to be a struggle for them to perform their mission.”

In two of the past three years, Tomblin directed government agencies to cut spending by 7.5 percent. The governor ordered additional “targeted cuts” last year.

“You’re looking in the range of more than 20 percent in reductions for some of these agencies,” Kiss said. “Some of the agencies are going to have a difficult time with it.”

Kiss described this year’s cuts as a “different animal” because West Virginia’s Medicaid program and public school funding won’t be spared from the governor’s budget ax, as in previous years…

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