W.Va. in Need Of Exit Strategy

Regardless of your political leanings, the wisdom of something West Virginia state Senate President Bill Cole said in Wheeling last week seems clear. “We need to refocus on what is the mission of state government,” Cole, R-Mercer, remarked during a town hall meeting on job creation.

Cole, his party’s candidate for governor, is taking an approach military leaders would understand. The key to success by the armed forces is setting a specific, achievable mission for them.

West Virginia’s economy is a wreck. State government is unsustainable at its current size. Just one month into the new fiscal year, the general revenue budget already is $32.5 million in the red, and that is with a spending plan slightly smaller than last year’s.

Clearly, Cole is right. A detailed, objective discussion needs to be held about just what we need state government to do.

Each agency in Charleston should be required to begin its annual budget proposals with a bare-bones estimate of how much is needed to achieve critical missions. Can anyone honestly doubt that the total would be far less than the $4.18 billion in the general revenue budget for this year?

Unless state officials begin such a process now, the next governor and legislators will find themselves painted into a corner when they attempt to adopt a budget for next fiscal year. State bureaucrats will threaten cutbacks in service that, they know, would be politically disastrous for the elected officials.

The very biggest service Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin could render during his final months in office would be to demand state agencies provide an honest plan to slash government spending.

In military terms, we West Virginians are stuck in a quagmire — and we are in desperate need of an exit strategy.


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