THE RECENT deadly floods offer clear examples why it is so important for West Virginia lawmakers to figure out how to fund a healthy and responsive state government as the state’s traditional sources of revenue shrink.
A storm like the one in June would cause anyone to dip into the Rainy Day Fund to keep services running. That is what the fund is for. But in recent years, West Virginia has been relying on its savings account too much just to cover its usual bills.
West Virginia would have been hurting anyway with the drop in coal severance taxes and other fluctuations. But making matters more difficult were $300 million worth of business tax cuts in recent years. By now lawmakers should have figured out how to make up that lost revenue. Instead, the state has been cutting spending.Gazette reporter David Gutman recently pointed out that many of the agencies being cut are precisely those that could help people deal with the flood. This includes:
*the State Police, which will see a cut of around $2 million, 11 percent below 2014;
*The WV National Guard. With funding flat since 2013, this amounts to a 5 percent cut if you factor in inflation;
*the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which has had flat funding for the last five years, another cut when inflation is factored in;
*the state Early Warning Flood System, which is down by 11 percent since 2013 and will get a $25K budget cut next year;
*the Bureau for Public Health's aid for local water systems has been flat since 2013 and will be cut by 24 percent next year.
Other state agencies that have been cut include the Department of Environmental Protection, which among other things regulates nearly 400 non-coal dams and the WV Conservation Agency, which maintains 170 flood control dams as part of the Department of Agriculture. It will cut by around $450,000 and will be funded at about 25 percent less than in 2013.
This is just nuts, a needless disaster waiting to happen due to bad decisions of the past and the anti-tax mentality of the WV legislature's majority.