Governor Urged To Restore Funds

WHEELING – Some Republican lawmakers are joining the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition in calling on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to restore about $1 million in funding cuts to child abuse and domestic violence prevention programs around the state.

The cuts were included in $67 million worth of line-item vetoes to the budget the Legislature passed in March. Tomblin has pledged to call the Legislature into a special session during May interim meetings to deal with flaws in a bill he signed into law raising the state’s minimum wage over the course of two years, but the Legislature may only deal with issues specifically included in the special session call.

“The governor has an enormous opportunity this May to restore these small but deeply harmful cuts to vital programs in our state. It isn’t a matter of money; it is just a matter of priority,” coalition leaders said in a report, “Our Children, Our Future: The Campaign to End Child Poverty,” released this week.

Delegates Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, and Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, are expected to join campaign leaders for a press conference at the Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center in Morgantown this afternoon supporting restoration of the funding. Storch could not be reached Thursday for comment.

The $1,067,900 in funding cuts target programs including the Children’s Trust Fund, local Family Resource Networks, child advocacy centers, in-home family education programs and grants to licensed domestic violence programs and domestic violence legal services funds. The programs would receive a total of $6.6 million under the governor’s budget, while the Legislature voted to provide about $7.6 million.

In his veto message, Tomblin wrote that some of the programs, such as the in-home education and family resource network programs, are under review to ensure efficiency of operation and that services aren’t being duplicated. He also said special circuit court fees should provide enough revenue to cover the cuts to the legal services fund.

“Cuts are never easy, but are necessary in our state’s current financial situation. … As good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars, there are times when we must do more with less and reduce the state’s base budget,” Tomblin wrote.

The Legislature’s 2014-15 budget would have added a total of about $200,000 in funding to the programs, at a time when the state is dipping into its savings to fill a projected budget shortfall. Even with Tomblin’s line-item vetoes, the state still expects to take $100 million from the Rainy Day Fund during 2014-15 to fill its budget gap.

According to Tomblin, the Legislature’s budget would have reduced the Rainy Day Fund by an amount that could have threatened the state’s bond rating.

But according to the Our Children, Our Future report, the programs receiving funding cuts are wise investments because they save lives and reduce the long-term societal cost of child abuse, domestic violence and illiteracy. The report points to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimate that the average child abuse victim will cost taxpayers $210,000 in health care, foster care services and special education over his or her lifetime.

“These programs keep kids from ending up in the criminal justice system, and keep parents employed,” the report states.