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Charleston Gazette-Mail Editorial: Government should use oversight carefully

Beginning Thursday, governors from across the nation descended on The Greenbrier for the annual National Governors Association summer meeting.

The executives were getting together to discuss topics such as infrastructure, climate change and rising health care costs.

These are issues all too familiar to West Virginia. But governors of other states say those issues, coupled with the economic recession and retirement of the Baby Boom population, strain state budgets.

“In the short term, it’s not too bad because the economy has been recovering and a lot of the states are not in those dire fiscal situations they were in a few years ago,” political science professor Jack Pitney told the Associated Press. “However, every farsighted governor knows the good times won’t last.”

Nearly half of all states will deal with a budget shortfall next fiscal year. Rising health care costs cause some governors to fear they may have to make further cuts to education and other areas so their states can fund health care programs.

These are tough decisions. No governor wants to leave a legacy of budget cuts and shortfalls, but that’s the reality many of them face.

In addition to health care, roads and infrastructure make up the lion’s share of state budgets. In West Virginian alone it would cost an additional $1.1 billion to complete projects, repair damaged roads and maintain infrastructure. Where those funds will come from isn’t immediately clear, but the issue is one the governor and Legislature have said will be a priority.

Other states are dealing with infrastructure funding in their own ways. According to the AP, Michigan, under Republican leadership, is looking at tax and fee increases to fund infrastructure. At the federal level, a six-year highways funding bill has hit a roadblock, even though authority for federal transportation programs expires at the end of the month.

Although every state is affected to some degree by federal policies, states should be trusted to come up with their own solutions. One-size-fits-all approaches handed down by the federal government — whether related to roads, energy or health care — aren’t always the answer.

State governors know their constituents, their states’ needs and how they can best allocate funds to meet those needs.

The federal government should be careful with its oversight and avoid overreaching its authorities. In many cases decisions can, and should, be made at the state level.

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