Time to tighten spending belts


The Journal editorial

Government budget writers often point to fixed costs as one reason they cannot reduce spending. To an extent, they have a point.

Here in West Virginia, there are several examples of untouchable line items in the budget. Funding for the state-federal Medicaid program cannot be reduced easily, for example.

But it appears Gov. Jim Justice may be treating state government employment as a fixed cost.

His budget proposal for the coming year specifies funding for the equivalent of 41,755.61 full-time state employees. That does not count public school teachers and service personnel, by the way. Technically, they are listed as county employees.

Compare Justice’s plan to fiscal 2016, which ended June 30 of that year. The budget then included 41,883.86 full-time equivalents. Justice’s plan is for just three-tenths of 1 percent fewer people.

Or look at the current year’s budget, which included money for 42,144.42 FTEs. Justice’s payroll is less than 1 percent lower than that, and does not reflect people laid off this year due to midyear spending cuts.

Many businesses in the Mountain State have had to tighten their belts during recent years, paring back employment by far more than Justice proposes — while maintaining pre-cut levels of production or service.

Why can’t state government do more with less, too?

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