Gov. Justice: Despite surplus, fiscal responsibility needed

Just two days before he was to deliver this evening’s State of the State speech, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced he will run for re-election in 2020. No surprise there.

“The further I go, the more I believe just this: I believe there’s work still to be done,” Justice explained Monday.

Despite grand announcements designed to allay such worries, concerns about West Virginia’s finances remain — with good reason.

It is possible we continue to spend beyond our means.

It is true, as Justice points out, that income for the state’s general revenue fund continues to exceed projections on which the budget was based. Analysts expect the Mountain State to end the current fiscal year with about $300 million in the bank.

But most West Virginians can relate to the idea of having already planned to spend money they expect to be just around the corner. Lawmakers and Justice have done just that.

Promises already have been made to spend about two-thirds of that amount on public employee pay raises and the Public Employees Insurance Agency. The “fix” demanded by so many depends on that money materializing, and continuing to do so. State law requires some of the surplus to be deposited into the emergency Rainy Day fund.

The bottom line is a $300 million surplus — even if revenue continues to do that well in the future — is far from an insurance policy against fiscal woes.

Let us hope Justice shows he understands that during his State of the State speech tonight.

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