Cut Spending, Don’t Raise W.Va. Taxes
It would be understandable if officials in many West Virginia state agencies had developed something of a siege mentality during the past year or so. After all, they were required to cut spending substantially last year to keep the state budget in balance. Last week they were warned the same thing may happen this year.
Better them than Mountain State taxpayers.
Several factors have made it difficult for governors and legislators to balance budgets during the past few years. Costs for the state-federal Medicaid program have soared. Coal severance tax revenue has declined, as has income from legalized gambling. All three situations are ongoing.
In many states, the knee-jerk reaction to such news is to look at tax increases. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin rejected that approach last year when he ordered spending cuts.
He is doing it again, no doubt with the support of most legislators. State Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss has sent agencies letters warning them that in putting together budget requests for the fiscal year starting next July 1, they should be prepared for a 7.5 percent reduction in spending.
Unfortunately, that would not be enough to close the expected $300 million hole in that year’s budget. Additional steps may be necessary.
For now, however, Tomblin and lawmakers are absolutely right to turn to spending cuts rather than tax increases. West Virginia families and businesses, many hard-pressed themselves, simply cannot afford to pay higher taxes.