An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov.-elect Jim Justice may be getting a harsh dose of reality as he and his transition team become more informed about the state’s budget woes in recent days. As Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was announcing an additional 2 percent budget cut for most state agencies, and extending the hiring freeze and travel restrictions, Justice’s team was getting the details of a general revenue fund that has fallen behind by another $87 million since July, with no end in sight.
Remember, on the campaign trail, Justice said “We’ve cut about all that we can cut,” as he proclaimed that targeted efforts to reduce wasteful spending in state government were not the answer to our financial problems. In fact, he worried that continued cuts would force more teachers out of state toward better paying jobs.
Wood County Schools officials do not yet know how the most recently announced cuts will affect them, but last year’s cuts included a similar reduction in school aid — $11.5 million then, compared with $11 million now — and resulted in Wood County Schools losing $530,000. That money had to be pulled from Wood County Schools’ reserve funds last time.
Surely, Tomblin wishes very much that he was not being forced to implement more cuts. But they are necessary. The state cannot spend money it does not have, and revenue is in short supply.
Justice has his work cut out for him if he believes he can bring in industries and projects that will turn around the Mountain State’s revenue spiral quickly enough for him to avoid making the kinds of tough decisions Tomblin has made.
He is being given as much information as Tomblin’s administration can give him, now. West Virginians will be eagerly awaiting the big ideas he implements to produce the fiscal magic he promised.