Tolerating Waste Is Wrong, Too

Public schools throughout West Virginia are closed today because of a work stoppage organized by the state’s two teachers’ unions. The strike is illegal and will affect many students and their families adversely.

But it is not difficult to understand why teachers have become so frustrated with state government. Every Mountain State resident ought to be upset, too.

Give Gov. Jim Justice and the Legislature credit for trying, through a $29 million bailout of the Public Employees Insurance Agency. That will help educators, state police, prison guards and other state workers by freezing health insurance premiums for at least 17 months.

On Tuesday, lawmakers agreed to a three-year, 4-percent pay increase for teachers and some other state employees. Given the condition of state finances, with it in question whether the current year’s budget is balanced, Justice and legislators simply could not find enough money to do better.

Why is that?

Because new spending can be covered in only two ways: higher taxes or reduced expenditures by state agencies. With the economy still struggling, asking families and businesses to send more money to Charleston is out of the question.

Suggest, on the other hand, that state government could be run less wastefully, and the reaction from agencies is that the world as we know it will come to an end if they have less to spend.

In a world full of cellphones, is it vital for us to have people patrolling highways, looking for motorists in distress? We pay for that every year by funding the Courtesy Patrol, operated by the Civilian Conservation Corps of West Virginia.

In 2015, the most recent year for which data could be found, it cost the CCC less than $2.2 million to fund the Courtesy Patrol. This year’s recommended budget calls for the state to pay $5 million for the service.

We pay our governor $150,000 a year. But in 2015, CCC Chief Executive Officer Robert Martin received a $360,414 salary. His chief operating officer made $176,651. That ought to outrage every Mountain State taxpayer.

Waste such as that — and state government is full of it — is nothing new. Democrats criticizing Republican lawmakers for not giving the teachers more ought to be asked why they did not crack down during the 83 years their party was in power.

Teachers should not have resorted to an illegal strike to make their point. That should go without saying.

So some West Virginians may be angry about the walkout. We all should be just as upset about decades of failure by both Democrats and Republicans to get spending priorities in order.