Opinion

Lawmakers should be wary of waste report source

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel 

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Two nonprofit organizations, the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy and Taxpayers Protection Alliance, have compiled a report they say exposes $330 million in wasteful spending on the part of West Virginia state government. Some of the arguments made in the report appear valid. For example, lawmakers should take another look at bidding out contracts. The Department of Highways, State Auditor’s Office and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner are likely just the tip of the iceberg.

And it is true lawmakers MUST turn off the taps on some programs, if West Virginia is to maintain any pretense of fiscal responsibility. But the report, “Wild and Wasteful West Virginia,” should not be used as an unresearched starting point. In fact, some of the complaints made in the report are intentionally misleading.

One item, listed under “The Art of Government Waste,” suggests “The state government forces taxpayers to spend millions of dollars to support the arts,” and “Government funding of the arts is problematic on several levels.” The report then laments the Legislature’s authorization for the Commission on the Arts to grant $1.3 million to various projects in 2015.

Among the “unfortunate” grants listed is “$10,500 – Mid-Ohio Valley Symphony Society in Parkersburg to perform ‘Tubby the Tuba.'”

Here is what really happened: On July 15, 2014, The West Virginia Commission on the Arts and the West Virginia Division of Culture and History awarded 55 competitive grants totalling $1.26 million. Among those grants was “$10,500 for contracted artist/professional fees and travel costs for Young People’s Concerts, including ‘Rumplestiltskin’ and ‘Tubby the Tuba,'” as part of its Arts In Education mission.

Mid-Ohio Valley residents will recognize this as the program that brings the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra-Parkersburg into our local schools to work with kids, which has grown to four performances per year.

Mountain State lawmakers have hard decisions to make about how best to spend taxpayers’ money. Perhaps funding of the arts will be part of that discussion. But if the arguments made in reports such as this one require so much twisting of the truth to be compelling, lawmakers had better look elsewhere for their information.

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