Getting Spending Under Control

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the budgeting process in West Virginia is that, year after year, very few people in state government seem to find ways to economize.

Even more unsettling is the appearance that after they leave state agencies, budget proposals don’t get much analysis from governors and legislators.

Look at Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed General Revenue Fund budget for the coming year. Among the most striking things about it — other than his plans for new spending, of course — is that line item after line item is for exactly the same amount of money that was budgeted this year.

Have you ever heard of anyone who spends exactly the same amount of money from year to year?

When our income increases, most of us spend a little more. Hopefully, we also sock away more in savings.

When our income decreases, we find ways to make do with less. We are not enabled to go to the West Virginia Legislature and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, I simply can’t find a way to spend less money next year than this. You’ll have to give me at least the same amount, preferably more.

“And by the way, if you don’t, the sky will fall — and I’ll let the voters know you’re responsible.”

State agencies can and do utilize that strategy. They get away with it.

Once again this year, the new fiscal year is close upon us and the Legislature has not yet adopted a budget (or, rather, multiple spending plans; the General Revenue Fund is just one of the budgets that needs approved).

There’s plenty of blame to go around for that. But the situation plays right into the hands of the bureaucrats. The closer July 1 gets, the easier it is for them to tell lawmakers they just don’t have time to adjust spending plans for the coming year.

That, too, is something you and I can’t get away with. When our incomes are reduced, we have to adjust whenever it happens.

Among the best things Justice’s administration has done is instruct state agencies to come up with operations plans for the potential “government shutdown” that will occur if there is no budget deal before July 1.

State government cannot shut down entirely, of course. Employees at state hospitals cannot just walk away from their jobs. Ditto for prison staffers. But with no authorization to spend money, some functions of government would have to be suspended.

Whatever shutdown plans are submitted ought to be photocopied and sent to each legislator. They ought to be scrutinized closely in the governor’s office, too.

Then, in January, when talk of a fiscal 2019 budget begins in earnest, agency heads ought to be asked about all the spending they listed as non-essential in the event of a partial shutdown of government. If said spending wasn’t absolutely necessary this year, why is it important for the next year?

There simply has to be a way to get spending under control in Charleston. That exercise may be a good place to start.


You stupid, stupid Americans. You can’t get out of the Paris climate agreement. That was the attitude taken by European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker a few days ago.

President Donald Trump doesn’t “comprehensively understand” the pact, Juncker told reporters, adding, “This notion, ‘I am Trump, I am American, America first and I am getting out,’ that is not going to happen.”

Now, we’re all polite people, right? But I’m guessing more than a few middle fingers twitched in reaction to Juncker’s comment.

His implication that putting the interests of Americans — in all ways, including climate — first is an unacceptable sin was an example of the European elitists’ attitude that infuriates many in our country. And the “that is not going to happen” comment was waving a large red flag in front of our faces.

Did Brexit not teach the EU elitists anything?

Apparently not.

Myer can be reached at: