State to learn whether estimates were met

With just a few days, West Virginians will learn how much of a recovery state government has made from the “Great Recession.”

At the same time, Gov. Jim Justice and state legislators will get some guidance on how freely they can spend in the future.

West Virginia’s fiscal year ended Saturday. Sometime this week, state officials will learn whether enough revenue was actually collected to match estimates on which the budget was based.

After the end of the 11th month of the fiscal year, on May 31, the situation looked good. Unfortunately, it was not very good.

Budget projections had called for the state to collect $3.81 billion for the general revenue fund during that period. Actual collections totaled about $15.5 million more — with almost all the gains coming during April and May.

That prompted Justice to proclaim that West Virginia is out of the fiscal woods.

But that $15.5 million overestimates represented less than one-half of one percent of estimated collections.

Think about it this way: If you expected to make $100 a year and, instead, took in $100.50, would you be singing, “We’re in the Money?” Probably not.

Perhaps June’s revenue will show a more dramatic increase than was reported at the end of the first 11 months of the fiscal year.

It will have to be dramatic, indeed, for the governor and lawmakers to begin looking for new ways to spend taxpayers’ money. By the time inflation is factored into the equation, any gain is likely to be wiped out.

At least it appears we have gotten through fiscal 2018 without any severe cutbacks in spending or unforeseen borrowing from the Rainy Day Fund. That is good news.

It is not the great news for which some had been hoping, however. And it means Justice and legislators, who will begin budgeting for fiscal 2020 early next year, had better hope for more dramatic increases in revenue during the next six months.