State Journal – In 1970, former West Virginia Speaker of the House Ivor F. Boiarsky paraphrased coach Vince Lomabardi, saying that the “state budget isn’t everything, but sometimes it comes close to being the only thing.” Read
This is because it is the one law that makes our state government function. It contains thousands of decisions that affect the lives of every one of the 1.8 million people living in West Virginia. As such, it is arguably the most important bill passed each year by the Legislature.
The budget reveals our state’s values and our vision for the future by defining the important public structures, services and programs that create our quality of life. The budget also reflects how the funding for these priorities will be shared among all West Virginians.
Unfortunately, over the last several years, the state has chosen austerity over prosperity. Since 2006, the state has baked into the budget more than $400 million in annual tax reductions, with over half going to mostly large, out-of-state corporations and shareholders. The predictable result has been drastic cuts to our colleges and universities, a crumbling transportation system, no discernable impact on growth and jobs and squandered opportunities to ensure that more families have an opportunity to thrive.
To build a brighter future, West Virginia is going to need the resources that will improve the long-term fiscal health of the state while making the crucial investments that lay a foundation for economic growth and good-paying jobs.
For the FY 2015-2016 budget, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is projecting a significant shortfall of between $250 million to $280 million — which is about 5.7 percent of the $4.7 billion base budget than includes general revenue and lottery funds. This comes on top of a $75 million budget shortfall last year.
Here are some recommendations for how we can fix the state’s long-term structural revenue problem, make our budget more accountable and transparent, while at the same time building a workforce that is more educated, productive and healthier:
Shared prosperity doesn’t happen by accident. It happens when we invest in human and physical capital — like roads, education, early childhood programs, health care and workforce development. It happens when more people have a chance to reach their full potential. As William Jennings Bryan said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.”
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