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No Crystal Ball

No Crystal Ball

Wading through thousands of individual line items, wishing they had a crystal ball to predict state revenue for next year, and making difficult choices, West Virginia state senators have devised a budget for the coming year.

Give them credit for both their hard work and their willingness to make those tough decisions to craft a general revenue fund spending plan that has bipartisan support. The $4.558 billion budget was approved on Saturday by a vote of 28-1, with several senators not present for the vote.

Though the general revenue budget is only about one-third of state spending, it is the plan where legislators and governors have the most discretion. Most other budgets involve federal funding or other factors that lock state officials in on how the money must be spent.

To their credit, state senators shaved $27 million off the budget proposal made by Gov. Jim Justice. Praise also is merited for senators’ willingness to reconsider a Justice proposal regarding the Medicaid Intellectual and Developmentally Disabled waiver program. In essence, it allows more people to receive treatment and other services in their communities, often in their homes, instead of in institutions.

Justice had proposed adding $20 million to the waiver program, to reduce a lengthy waiting list of people desiring to make use of it. Initially, senators had cut that to $10 million, but they later restored the full amount sought by the governor.

Budget considerations will be on the Legislature’s plate much of this week. For one thing, the House of Delegates must act on its version of the budget. Then, the two chambers will have to agree on a final version.

Among ways state senators are planning to balance the budget is to trim $4 million in suggested funding for the Division of Tourism.

But legislators ought to take another look at that, for the simple reason that promoting our state as a tourist destination boosts the economy and thus, state revenues.

Tourism is a money-maker — and reducing the agency’s budget may prove to be counterproductive in the long run.

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