Measure Social Programs’ Quality
More than $1 million for programs to combat child abuse and domestic violence as well as to assist young children in West Virginia has been restored to the state budget. Good – and good for legislators’ method of finding the money.
But now, lawmakers and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should be taking a hard, objective look at such programs. How much good are they doing? Could the money be put to better use?
Among line-item vetoes Tomblin exercised in approving the state budget was one cutting about $1 million from social programs. Among them were initiatives mentioned above.
Later, Tomblin restored $260,000 for the programs, but advocates for them wanted the entire amount originally budgeted by the Legislature. A coalition of groups, Our Children, Our Future, mobilized to campaign for the move.
During a special session of the Legislature this week, lawmakers agreed to restore $1.06 million for the programs.
Their method of doing so certainly was praiseworthy. Recognizing, as did Tomblin, that money for state government is scarce, legislators in effect “found” a means of supplementing the budget. The $1.06 million will be taken from state support for horse and dog racing.
Tomblin’s line-item veto clearly was not a good idea. Victims of child abuse and domestic violence need all the help they can get. Simply taking an ax to funding for programs meant to help them was imprudent.
But too often, legislators and the public are preoccupied with worthy causes, not the effects of doling out money to agencies and organizations espousing them. Of course it is important to help victims of child abuse and domestic violence. But is the money we spend on that doing as much good as possible? Or are we measuring our good deeds by how much money we spend rather than how many victims are helped and how many cases of child abuse and domestic violence are prevented?
Again, legislators were right to restore the $1 million in funding. Now they and Tomblin should determine whether that money and millions more spent on social programs is being used effectively.