Curb Spending Spree in W.Va.

Gov. Jim Justice views this week’s disappointing state revenue report as “a shot across the bow for all of us in government …” It certainly was that.

The question now is whether Justice and state legislators will heave to on grandiose spending plans — or risk damage to the ship of state, should revenue plunge in the future.

During the first few months of the fiscal year, income for the general revenue fund exploded past what analysts had estimated. Justice himself proclaimed the days of budget worries were over. It was predicted the state would end fiscal 2019 with a surplus of about $300 million.

But January revenue was about $3 million less than had been expected. That prompted the governor’s shot-across-the-bow comment to reporters.

There is little cause for worry about making ends meet during the remaining five months of this fiscal year. After January, total collections remained $182.8 million in excess of projections.

But if this year’s surplus withers away next year, as has been suggested it may, the state’s general revenue budget for fiscal 2020 could be in trouble. Very large increases in spending — perhaps as much as $650 million more than this year — have been suggested. Passing a budget of that magnitude could mean trouble a year from now, if revenue lags behind hopes.

Now may be the time to heed that shot across the bow, then, and trim the sails on spending increases. Justice and legislators may have no choice but to set some priorities — recognizing that their key responsibility is a balanced budget.


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