Get Second Opinions On Cost of Proposals

For the past few years, West Virginia legislators have debated setting up a fiscal analysis office answerable not to the executive branch, but to them. That is more than an excellent idea. It is one that could save taxpayers lots of money while at the same time ensuring worthwhile new programs are not blocked by bureaucrats.

When lawmakers consider new services, the state agencies involved provide “fiscal notes” as guides to whether the initiatives are affordable.

And – surprise, surprise – bills the bureaucrats and their governors like tend to have fiscal notes on the conservative side. Those they oppose frequently are deemed to be outrageously expensive. State Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, recalled being told a few years ago that it would cost $1.5 billion to require daily physical education classes in schools.

A legislative fiscal analysis office might exhibit bias, too, depending on what its employees believe leading lawmakers want. But, at minimal cost, it could serve as a check on demonstrably inaccurate agency fiscal notes. It is a second opinion legislators should provide themselves.