Both sacrifice and greed on display
Shared sacrifice was on display during the session of the West Virginia Legislature that ended recently.
But greed was there, too.
As you may know, times are tough in state government. Revenue is below expectations.
To balance the state budget for the year beginning July 1, Tomblin and lawmakers are having to take $147.5 million out of our cherished Rainy Day fund. It could have been worse but for some unusual moves legislators made.
For one thing, they agreed to take $9 million out of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s Consumer Protection Fund. The account’s purpose is self-explanatory. It benefits every West Virginian.
“During difficult times, every office must do its part to put the taxpayers first,” Morrisey said of the deal.
Coincidentally, $9 million is approximately what lawmakers sought to add to the budget from another source – subsidies the state pays to the horse- and dog-racing industries.
Those groups receive about $90 million a year that otherwise could have gone to help West Virginians in any number of ways. Tomblin originally sought to trim that by 15 percent, but the number quickly dropped to 10 percent.
Even that “haircut,” as it came to be called, was fought tooth and nail by the dog- and horse-racing interests.
They managed to stymie the measure during the Legislature’s 60-day regular session. Only Friday, during a special session, did lawmakers finally pass it.
Even the West Virginia Education Association, which sometimes demands teacher pay raises the state cannot afford, was helpful.
Teachers will receive $1,000 a year raises in the new budget. But at one point, $6,000 increases were discussed.
WVEA President Dale Lee agreed the state simply could not afford that. “I am satisfied that in a very, very tough fiscal year, that education is important” to state officials, he said of the lower figure.
So there you go. Some people, such as Morrisey, decided it was important to make sacrifices to balance the budget. Others, such as the horse- and dog-racing interests, did not.
Folks like Morrisey – and there were many others who helped, in ways small and large – deserve pats on the back. The dog- and horse-racing interests? Not so much.