Restore funding for seniors and children

An editorial from The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No one should suddenly start over-estimating Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

This week, two reports did give us a bit more appreciation for his administration.

But many of his line-item vetoes in March, to the state budget are still beneath him.

Those vetoes scratched out $67 million in spending, which mostly targeted seniors, children, families and the poor.

The lion’s share of those line items was about $47.5 million that came from a fund used to supplement Medicaid costs, prior to the program’s expansion.

There are plans to restore those cuts later this year.

However, the real rub in this rash of vetoes were cuts to in-home care for seniors, Family Resource Networks, legal services for domestic victims, in-home family education, child advocacy centers and senior centers.

Everyone should realize the bind we’re in that resulted in this coming fiscal year’s budget.

First, the state needed to withdraw about $100 million from its Rainy Day fund. That’s a first to finance a budget.

Also, lawmakers opposed any new revenues by raising taxes on cigarettes, sales or otherwise.

In the interim, the state is still looking at a deficit in the current fiscal year that will need paid ASAP.

Yet, the governor had his priorities wrong when he wielded his veto pen.

Especially, in light of approving a $25 million tax cut for a billionaire developer and continuing to subsidize racetracks and casinos.

Still, we were encouraged this week to learn that two of the governor’s Cabinet secretaries will meet today with a group seeking to restore funding for early childhood and family resource programs.

Furthermore, due to increased funding recently from a federal waiver program, 130 more seniors are now eligible for in-home care.

Admittedly, this news is encouraging. There’s also reason to believe Tomblin will ask lawmakers to restore some of these funding cuts in a special session in May.

Still, cutting $388,000 from domestic violence programs, $200,000 for child advocacy centers and $80,000 for child abuse prevention is wrong.

And despite the number of new seniors eligible for in-home care there are still about 2,200 others on a waiting list.

Initially, the Legislature covered all of them with an additional $12 million in funding. That was later cut in half to $6 million and then $5 million in late-session compromises.

Then $3.5 million of that fell to the governor’s axe.

We urge the governor to reconsider these cuts and look elsewhere to curb state spending.

That includes leading an effort to raise the state’s pitiful tax on cigarettes.

Or would that be over-estimating him, again?

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