Caution: Legislators still need fiscal discipline

Time and again during the West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Lookahead last week, lawmakers seemed downright relaxed as they pointed out budget revenue that is exceeding expectations, fueled in part by an increase in severance tax revenue.

In fact, already some lawmakers seem to be coming up with ideas for spending that money — some of them perhaps not realizing that they are ready to spend money they do not yet have, and cannot count on in succeeding years; and that other lawmakers are planning to spend in other places.

Also last week, a revenue report covering the first half of the fiscal year was released. Indeed, more money than expected was received.

However, estimated collections had been $1.965 billion. Actual revenue was $1.968 billion. That $2.7 million difference amounts to very little in the context of the budget as a whole. Certainly private citizens who believed they might be able to expect an extra one or two percent more cash over the course of a year would be reckless if they let down their guard and stopped looking for ways to spend responsibly.

At least the bleeding seems to have stopped, and that certainly is good news. But fiscal discipline should remain the order of the day. Right-sizing government and finding ways to run more efficiently — taking down King Bureaucracy in favor of a government that operates in the best interests of the citizens, not itself — should still be a priority for the 2018 legislative session.

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