Tomblin veto raises ire of locals

ELKINS – Representatives from local services are outraged by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto of proposed changes to the state’s budget that would prevent cuts to family resource networks, domestic violence aid and care for seniors.

Tomblin vetoed a bill March 19 that would have reinstated approximately $67 million in funding to areas that had been cut in the state’s budget.

According to the governor’s website, Tomblin cited 42 objections to the revisions, saying with the veto “utilization of the Rainy Day Fund is limited to $100 million in fiscal year 2015,” and “the threshold of the Rainy Day Fund does not drop below 15 percent in fiscal year 2016.”

“Some of these reductions curb grants and services and, while they are difficult, they are necessary to responsibly manage future year budgets, without raising taxes,” Tomblin said in the statement.

Tomblin reduced the amount of funding for the Family Resource Networks by more than $150,000, cut the Domestic Violence Legal Services Fund and grants licensed domestic violence programs and statewide prevention by $30,000 and approximately $350,000 respectively.

Other cuts include $12,000 from the Children’s Protection Act, $200,000 from Child Advocacy Centers, $50,000 from the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Commission, more than $1,000,000 from senior citizens centers and programs and $100,000 for in-home services and nutrition for senior citizens.

Calls to Gov. Tomblin’s office were not returned for comment as of press time.

Some local representatives for organizations that require state funding to function, like April Miller, president of the West Virginia Alliance of Family Resource Networks and director of the Tucker County Family Resource Network, are not happy with the governor’s actions.

“A lot of our services are being compromised as a result of the lack of funding,” Miller told The Inter-Mountain this week. “It is our job to listen to and identify the needs of the community. These are programs that affect people’s lives daily and the needs of families are what’s at stake.”

Miller said the Alliance spent time in Charleston to actively educate state officials about how the FRN affects West Virginia. She said the FRN helps coordinate services for substance abuse and domestic abuse, as well as supporting families and school programs. Miller said the Tucker County FRN started out with $50,000 in funding a few years ago and now they are down to $37,000.

“I think there are some misconceptions about what we do,” Miller said. “I think people may have the impression that we duplicate services. But we really gauge our community’s needs and work to try and provide the services that best suit them.”

Miller and Rebecca Vance, director and sole employee of the Randolph County Family Resource Network, said their respective organizations are going to be looking for fundraising opportunities to make up for the cuts.

“”It really makes you get creative. We’ve got to really look at what we do and find money in a new way, be it fundraisers, grants, etc.,” Vance said.

Marcie Drake, executive director of Women’s Aid in Crisis in Elkins, an organization that receives much of its funding from the state, said the cuts would definitely affect the services WAIC provides to six counties in the area.

“We are dealing with funding cuts reaching nearly $400,000 across the state,” Drake said. “Our goal this year was to lobby for more funding. Now, our goal is just to get back to even. This is a very significant cut to our budget. This is not something that you can pick back up.

“Maybe they don’t realize how important the services we provide are,” Drake added. “These are lifesaving services. People could lose their lives if these services are not provided. They can talk about preserving the Rainy Day fund, but if these services are absent from our communities, then it’s a rainy day for children and families in West Virginia.

“I’d like to think that we are not finished yet. We are working statewide, strategizing ways to get this funding back,” Drake said. “The Legislature has been very supportive. If this is going to make West Virginia grow then I’m all for it, but it’s a challenge and it’s something that we are going to have to continue to work on together.”

Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, who is also the director of Elkins Rehabilitation and Care Center (ERCC), said she was disappointed with the cuts to the funding, particularly after the legislators spent time going back and trying to reinstate the funding.

“We worked very hard to cover very vital services and it did take more out of the Rainy Day Fund, but what senior, child or disabled person do you look in the face and tell them that they can’t receive these services,” Campbell said.

The budget takes effect on July 1; however, Campbell said, the Legislature will likely meet again before then to approve final state appropriations for the coming fiscal year.