Budget Cuts: Lawmakers should start planning now

Mountain State lawmakers may be getting a bit nervous about the amount of money with which they will be able to play during the upcoming legislative session this winter.

Despite Gov. Jim Justice’s assurances that in a few weeks we will see an uptick in revenue numbers reported for the month of September, it is telling that he already has a plan in place to consider across-the-board budget cuts of nearly 5 percent.

Coal and natural gas severance tax estimates are down a whopping 50 percent for July and August. That may be just one of the factors that led state Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, to target already a politically easy $15 million in the budget for greyhound racing.

If lawmakers already have decided they are going to have to figure out how to cut out a minimum of $200 million from the budget next year, Carmichael might be getting a head start.

It is a time-worn pattern here in West Virginia. Choruses of “We’re in the Money” never seem to last long, and most voters stopped singing along years ago. We know better.

Though Carmichael might want to choose his words more carefully on greyhound racing (pointing out that West Virginia is an outlier on the issue, the industry probably does not support as many jobs as its lobbyists claim, and the state should not be in the business of subsidizing a slowly dying industry, might not be wise given the number of out-of-state analysts who try to use the same points in their attacks on coal), he is on the right track.

Lawmakers cannot wait until Jan. 8 to start figuring out how to eliminate that kind of spending from our budget.