June 19, 2017

Bare bones

Well, West Virginia finally has a state budget, assuming the governor doesn't veto it, which I doubt will happen. It's pretty bare bones.

Most disturbing is the $16 million cut in higher education in a state that desperately needs to raise its educational attainment level, which will raise costs for students. After spending half a mill on the special session.

Here are some facts about higher ed and the state budget from the WV Center on Budget and Policy:

*Average tuition at West Virginia’s public colleges and universities has increased by $4,200 since 2002, a 147 percent increase, and far outpacing inflation.
*Tuition increases, in large part, have been fueled by falling public support for higher education. Since 2008, state spending in higher education has declined by $130 million, adjusting for inflation.
*As tuitions have increased, so has student debt. The average debt of a college graduate in West Virginia has increased by 70 percent since 2005. West Virginia also has the second highest student loan default rate in the country.
*Tuition increases have eroded the value of the state’s financial aid programs. The share of tuition covered by the PROMISE scholarship has fallen from 100 percent to 70 percent.

This was the second year in a row the state skated to the edge of a government shutdown. Back in what I didn't realize were the good old days, the legislative session was 60 days with maybe a  mostly drama-free week right after to nail down the budget. I'm hoping this doesn't turn into Groundhog Day.

On the bright side, the budget doesn't include tax changes that would make the bottom 80 percent pay more while giving a big break to the wealthy, a measure that would have also cost the state hundreds of millions in lost revenue in future years. One bad year is betting than signing up for a bunch of them.

Here are two views on the budget process by two veteran reporters, Phil Kabler from the Gazette-Mail and Brad McElhenny from WV Metro-News.

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