Come work with us! We’re hiring two full-time, paid summer fellows.
The WVCBP seeks a Criminal Legal Policy Fellow to research and write about best practices for improving the criminal system, with a focus on the areas of excessive sentences and reducing the harms caused by jails and prisons.
The WVCBP also seeks an Economic Justice Research Fellow to research and analyze issues associated with economic security in West Virginia.
Our summer fellows are paid $20.00 per hour. A typical fellowship runs for 10-12 weeks from mid-May to early August. Fellowships are full-time at 37.5 hours per week and include two paid holidays, three paid vacation days, and one sick day.
Find further details and instructions to apply here. The deadline to apply for both positions is Wednesday, Feb. 15.
From looming PEIA and Medicaid shortfalls to crisis-level vacancies at state agencies, years of so-called “flat” state budgets are leading to real reductions in public services for West Virginians all across the state. HB 2526, the governor’s proposed personal income tax cut plan, would worsen these issues, leading to near-immediate budget shortfalls and eliminating the surplus “safety net” that lawmakers have grown increasingly reliant on in recent years to fund priorities like PEIA, higher education, economic development, and tourism.
We’ve discussed at length that flat budgets are actually declining budgets, as they fail to keep up with inflation and rising costs. After adjusting for inflation, the governor’s proposed FY 2024 budget is over $500 million less than the FY 2019 budget.
In addition to consistently underfunding state programs and filling state budget holes with temporary federal funds, another way lawmakers have been able to maintain a relatively flat budget in recent years has been to fund ongoing or expected state needs with short-term surplus funds. State lawmakers have long-identified spending priorities for any surplus funds that come in during a given year, putting those potential expenditures in the “back of the budget” to be funded with any excess state revenues.
Lately, this practice has become more prevalent as Governor Justice has created artificially low revenue estimates, leading lawmakers to address growing budget needs by including ongoing state program costs and pent-up state needs as part of their “back of the budget” priorities. In recent years, General Revenue surplus allocations have replaced higher education funding not included in the General Revenue budget, filled the PEIA Rainy Day Fund, funded economic development projects, and paid for current expenses and needed maintenance at various state agencies. In addition to being a fiscally irresponsible practice, as expected state costs should be built into the General Revenue budget, it could be giving legislators a false sense of security that it will be possible to maintain a flat budget in future years—and by extension a false belief that the state can “afford” permanent tax cuts without painful budget tradeoffs.
This phenomenon of using surplus dollars to pay for annual or expected state budget costs should give lawmakers pause as they consider their commitments to fiscal responsibility and big, budget-busting tax cuts. As we’ve highlighted previously, the governor’s tax plan would quickly create budget shortfalls within the existing General Revenue budget, which we’ve established does not even represent all of the ongoing program costs across our state’s agencies and programs.
Even using the administration’s very optimistic revenue estimates in FY 2025 and beyond, the state budget would see a shortfall almost immediately if HB 2526 is enacted even with a continued flat budget and simply paying for the anticipated PEIA and Medicaid shortfalls in upcoming years. What’s more, if we add ongoing spending that has been covered by surplus funds in recent years like higher education, tourism, and economic development, the budget shortfalls will skyrocket — and lawmakers will find themselves with no other option than to make significant budget cuts or increase taxes.
Four years of flat budgets have already led to immeasurable negative consequences for workers, children, and families throughout our state. Enacting tax cuts that would force cuts to a state budget that’s already failing to serve West Virginians would be short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible.
Contact your legislators today and make sure they know what you want them to prioritize over the next several weeks. The choice could not be more clear: windfall tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations or investments in PEIA, our schools, infrastructure, supports for workers and families, and other critical needs. You can send them a message here.
This week, the WV Senate passed SB 59, a bill that would significantly reduce the number of weeks West Virginians are eligible for unemployment benefits. A recent article including insight from WVCBP executive director, Kelly Allen, provides further details. Excerpt below:
The legislation, SB 59, would cap unemployment benefits – currently a maximum of 26 weeks – at 12 weeks of benefits if the unemployment rate is below 5.5 percent. The length of benefits would climb to a maximum of 20 weeks if unemployment grew. Under the measure, the rate of benefits would be calculated based on the statewide unemployment rate and wouldn’t take into account job availability in smaller, rural counties.
Under the measure, people receiving unemployment benefits would be required to show proof of at least four job search activities a week, including going to job interviews online or in person and using the state’s online job matching system.
West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy Executive Director Kelly Allen said the bill did nothing to address the state’s workforce issues of transportation gaps and child care barriers. She said the bill would add “red tape” to people navigating the job-search process, who were recently let go from employment.
“The bureaucratic things fall on people who have a disability or who don’t have access to transportation or internet,” she added, noting the bill is likely to disproportionately affect the state’s poorer residents.
Chad Morrison, CEO of Mountaineer Food Bank, said he’s concerned the legislation would increase the need for help at the state’s food charity system.
One in seven adults and one in four children do not have enough food to eat in the state, and the state’s two food banks have experienced heightened need in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mountaineer Food Bank spent $5 million on food to distribute to those in need in 2022 compared to $1.5 million in 2021.
“Any time there’s legislation that may add additional barriers to food assistance programs … or economic assistance programs like unemployment benefits, we know there will be an increase in need for help at food pantries and the food bank programs across the state,” Morrison said.
Read the full article here.
Last year, similar legislation was introduced, and we published a blog post debunking the arguments in favor of the policy. Read the blog post here or our Twitter thread summarizing the piece here.
We hosted our 10th annual Budget Breakfast last week!
Each year, the WVCBP holds this event to provide analysis of the governor’s proposed budget and how it reflects the needs of West Virginia families and workers. Speakers included WVCBP Executive Director, Kelly Allen; WVCBP Senior Policy Analyst, Sean O’Leary; and distinguished keynote speaker, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Vice President for State Fiscal Policy, Michael Leachman, who presented on national revenue trends and why personal income tax cut proposals fail to spur jobs and economic growth.
“Wealthy interests argue that income tax cuts, which mainly benefit them, will cause economic growth that helps us all. But that story doesn’t align with the evidence,” said Leachman. “Other states that have tried deep income tax cuts hoping to spur growth have not seen it materialize. People don’t flock to those states and very few businesses move there to lower their taxes. Thriving communities require good schools, high-quality health care, and other public goods that income tax cuts undermine.”
“After four years of flat budgets resulting in cuts to state programs and services by attrition, Governor Justice’s budget proposal is more of the same,” said O’Leary. “Worse, he doubles down on debunked ideas that big tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations will grow our state while neglecting the investments that do make West Virginia a place where families and small businesses can thrive. A budget that puts West Virginians first would ensure that our schools, health care system, and infrastructure are well-funded, that public jobs that serve our communities are filled, and that all West Virginians have the support needed to thrive.”
You can watch the event recording here.
Claims of historic revenue surpluses continue to be touted by public officials to call for personal income tax cuts. And yet, our state is currently experiencing numerous funding crises and suffering the consequences of years of severe underinvestment in critical needs.
Struggling to make sense of West Virginia’s economic landscape? Join us as our team breaks down how artificially underestimated budgets and tax cuts for the wealthy harm our state and its people.
Our public forum will be held Tuesday, January 31 at the Judge Black Annex (317 Market St., Parkersburg, WV 26101) from 5:30-7:30pm. RSVP here.
Black Policy Day is coming to the Capitol on February 15!
Join the WV Black Voter Impact Initiative and their partners for breakfast at the Cultural Center starting at 7:00am, followed by a series of activities and speakers related to the Black policy framework.
The day will include a breakfast event that reviews the Black Policy Agenda and provides information about current opportunities and resources. The afternoon will include a youth-centered lunch event with accompanying activities. Throughout the day, there will be opportunities to engage in meetings with lawmakers, space for vendors and tabling
opportunities, youth activities, and much more. Some of the events that day will include an option for virtual participation via a live stream.
Learn more and register for the event here.
The WVCBP’s Elevating the Medicaid Enrollment Experience (EMEE) Voices Project seeks to collect stories from West Virginians who have struggled to access Medicaid across the state. Being conducted in partnership with West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, EMEE Voices will gather insight to inform which Medicaid barriers are most pertinent to West Virginians, specifically people of color.
Do you have a Medicaid experience to share? We’d appreciate your insight. Just fill out the contact form on this webpage and we’ll reach out to you soon. We look forward to learning from you!
You can watch WVCBP’s health policy analyst Rhonda Rogombé and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care’s Mariah Plante further break down the project and its goals in this FB Live.
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