Budget Discipline A Priority in W.Va.
Facing a substantial increase in the cost of the Medicaid program, along with revenue lagging behind projections, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin began months ago to take action to keep the West Virginia government budget in balance. He ordered most state agency heads to plan for 7.5 percent spending cuts during the upcoming fiscal year. He also implemented a state hiring freeze.
State legislators have begun work on the budget, which will not be finalized until a special session after this weekend. But lawmakers already are making important changes in Tomblin’s proposal.
One approved by the House of Delegates Finance Committee reverses some of the cuts ordered by the governor. It would give the State Police money for a new class of trainees. It also would provide more money for teachers to buy classroom supplies.
No doubt more changes will be made in both the House and the state Senate before the budget is approved and sent to Tomblin for his signature.
In some states – and certainly in Washington – that might be cause for alarm. Budget discipline is hard to find these days.
But West Virginia is different. Changes suggested in the House provide more money than the governor sought for some purposes – but still involve an aggregate of $5 million less than he recommended.
Good. West Virginia’s balanced budget is the envy of many other states. Keeping it that way should be lawmakers’ top priority.