West Virginia is among the worst states in the country in long-term budget planning, according to a major new report from the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
West Virginia should adopt a set of proven budget-planning tools that could help it weather difficult economic times, build an attractive business climate, and make government more effective and efficient, the report finds.
“The conclusions of this week’s report mirrors our findings about budget transparency and accountability, fiscal notes, and the dominance of the executive branch in budget decisions; so it is easy to see why the state ranks poorly on the CBPP’s scorecard,” stated Ted Boettner, Executive Director with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “West Virginia can and should do more long-term planning to help build a strong economy, cope with economic ups and downs, and improve government efficiency. People across the political spectrum can agree that adopting proven, nonpartisan tools that allow our lawmakers to do so is in West Virginia’s best interest.”
The report ranks the states according to whether and how well they make use of ten key fiscal planning tools, which fall into three broad categories:
West Virginia scored 4.5 out of a possible 10 points in the analysis. While the state has a well-designed rainy day fund, it lacks in having tools in place to provide consensus between the executive and legislative branches when it comes to revenue forecasting. Additionally, a recent report by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy showed that a majority of state legislators do not trust the fiscal note process the state follows when trying to calculate how much a piece of legislation will cost the state.
One way to ensure more consensus between the governor’s office and the legislative branch would be the creation of a legislative fiscal office similar to those in 34 other states. This nonpartisan agency would also help ensure the accuracy of fiscal notes that accompany legislation.
Lawmakers can reduce public uncertainty about what services they will receive and what taxes they will owe, making our state more attractive to businesses. They can also help West Virginia avoid making short-sighted decisions that do long-term damage to the state’s budget and economy. And, better planning can ensure that government delivers important services like health care and education in a way that’s effective and efficient in both short and long run.
“Better planning encourages policymakers to take the long view, one that considers a state’s future workforce, population, and infrastructure needs,” said Elizabeth McNichol, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and co-author of the report. “A state’s budget decisions today on services like education and infrastructure affect both the state and the nation for years to come.”
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ full report can be found here.
A fact sheet for West Virginia is available here.