By next July, West Virginians will be tightening our collective belt - by more than one notch. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin revealed last week he has instructed most state agencies to plan for 7.5 percent spending cuts during the fiscal year that starts next July 1.
Tomblin's staff has crunched the numbers and determined there will be an $85 million gap between revenue and expenditures for the coming fiscal year. Spending cuts, with some programs including Medicaid and public schools exempted, will be necessary to balance the budget.
What brought the sky crashing down on West Virginia's budget?
We had been doing so well for several years, after all.
The culprit is Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care program for low-income and disabled people. Federal requirements for coverage, along with expected cuts in support from Washington, have forced the state's burden higher.
That is just for the existing Medicaid program. If the "Obamacare" mandate to expand Medicaid is obeyed in Charleston, even more money will be needed.
Tomblin and legislators are pondering whether to go along with the expansion. The answer to their dilemma may well have been conveyed by the governor's spending cut order.
If we can't afford the Medicaid program we have now, how on earth are struggling West Virginians going to pay for more?