Opinion, WVPA Sharing

Editorial: State budget funds vital government services

From the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Daily Mail Editorial Page:

To hear Gov. Jim Justice put it, West Virginia could have “absolutely eradicated this terrible drug epidemic” if only legislators had included a five-percent successful “bidders fee” to roads projects in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

Who knew that eliminating the drug problem could be as simple as adding a fee to companies that win bids to do roadwork?

That statement during a news conference Wednesday is just one of many superlative examples that West Virginia’s wishful-thinker-in-chief believes is wrong with the budget passed by lawmakers.

In a rambling, preachy 35-minute statement, the governor said he would allow the budget bill to become law without his signature to prevent a state budget shutdown when the fiscal year starts July 1.

“I think we have a travesty,” Justice said. “I think as best as I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, I can’t sign this.”

This budget of which he complains spends only $4.225 billion of taxpayers’ money — equal to the amount of revenue expected under the current tax structure.

In the governor’s eyes, the state would have risen up like a rocket ship if only legislators had demanded state taxpayers cough up a few hundred million more dollars by raising taxes one way or another. But since lawmakers — particularly the House of Delegates — felt West Virginians were taxed enough already, in Justice’s eyes, West Virginia is doomed.

In reality, the Fiscal Year 2018 budget for West Virginia is roughly equivalent to that of 2013-2014.

You remember five years ago, when the state barely survived on a “poverty-level, bare-bones budget,” as this budget is often described.

Among the governor’s overstatements:

“Fairs and festivals devastated,” the governor wrote on a whiteboard under the title of “Budget Failures.”

But fairs and festivals are funded at $1.35 million in the new budget, a reduction of about $318,000 from what lawmakers passed for the current fiscal year.

“Now get this,” Justice said. “We stripped every single dollar out of Tourism. Every dollar.”

Yet Senate Bill 1013, the budget bill that passed, funds Tourism at nearly $6.5 million, an increase of $400,000 over what was legislators passed for this fiscal year.

After Justice finished making statements with an accuracy level comparable to President Donald Trump’s tweets, House Speaker Tim Armstead responded in a much more measured, reasonable, and accurate manner.

“The budget is not the travesty he’s talking about,”Armstead told Hoppy Kercheval on MetroNews.

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