Bureaucracy: Lawmakers should cut waste to pay for raises

“I’m not king,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice reminded frustrated public school employees last Thursday.

It was an acknowledgement of what should have been understood all along. He had no power to make happen what he promised as he offered a possible solution that would end the strike by teachers and service employees. Now, though the House of Representatives quickly passed a proposed 5 percent pay raise so they could meet the crossover day deadline to keep the bill alive for consideration by the Senate, there is no quick and easy deal. In fact, the Senate is rightly concerned the money Justice envisioned is simply not there.

Even if it is, their intent appears to be toward providing funding that would lead to that Public Employees Insurance Agency “fix” for which everyone is clamoring.

But no one in Charleston is asking the simple question — the RIGHT question: If new money might not be available to fund this, where can we make cuts in our current spending to come up with $58 million a year?

Everyone outside Charleston — everyone — knows what IS king in West Virginia: the bureaucracy. Its desire to serve itself, and our elected officials’ entire unwillingness to confront it have ballooned our state’s general revenue spending to more than $4 billion. No ordinary citizen capable of balancing his or her own budget would be incapable of finding $58 million worth to trim.

Why aren’t lawmakers looking?

West Virginia public schools must reopen. Students should be returning to class tomorrow.

And teachers should go back to work with the confidence that legislators are doing everything they can — looking for every possible savings before counting on found money. Anything less will show us all where lawmakers’ priorities, and loyalties, lie.