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Cutting state budget easier said than done

December 31, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

Months ago, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin warned heads of West Virginia state agencies many of them would have to cut spending during the coming fiscal year. A budget gap at one time estimated at $200 million will have to be closed.

But the governor himself has been reminded of how difficult it can be to lessen or eliminate spending on some very popular programs.

During the summer, reductions in a program to help pay child care costs for many lower income West Virginians were announced. After an outcry arose, Tomblin backed away from some of the cuts.

Then this month he retreated again. Tomblin said he will delay changes that could have ended state child-care aid altogether for parents and guardians of about 1,425 children.

In June state officials proposed eliminating child care assistance for families with incomes at or above 150 percent of the federal poverty level. That would have meant cutting off help for a family of four with annual income of about $34,575 or a single mother with one child and income at or above $22,700.

That isn't much, given the cost of living.

Many of those receiving state child care assistance - especially single parents - use it to enable them to hold jobs. Eliminating the aid would make it much more difficult for them to work.

At the time, state officials were worried shortfalls in federal funding for the program would make it impossible to avoid cuts. But this week, Tomblin said he plans to find enough money to keep the program going at least through next spring.

The governor has made a wise decision, one state legislators should support.

It is clear lawmakers and Tomblin will have to make hard choices on state spending in order to keep the budget balanced. That probably will mean cutting back on or eliminating some popular, worthwhile programs.

But the child care assistance initiative makes it realistic for some parents - again, especially those without spouses present in the home - to work. Programs that encourage West Virginians to hold jobs instead of relying on public assistance should be maintained as long as possible. Again, legislators should support the governor and work hard to find money to sustain the program during the next fiscal year.



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