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Budget Cuts: Lawmakers must ask hard questions

“This is prudent behavior. Every household out here if they see their income is down would have the same behavior,” said State Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, upon hearing it confirmed that state agencies are being asked to cut $100 million from current spending AND prepare to carry those cuts — and maybe more — into the next fiscal year.

Blair, speaking to another media outlet, is correct of course. But most who have to worry about their own finances, rather than having other people’s money to play with would likely not have engaged in the kind of hyperbolic fantasy that preceded last week’s reminder that revenue collection has been consistently lower than expected for months, primarily because of reductions in coal and natural gas severance taxes.

Remember when Gov. Jim Justice boasted that, once he swooped in to office, the economy — and revenue collection — had improved “even beyond everyone’s wildest dreams?”

It looks now as though it was, indeed, a dream. We are right back where we always seem to find ourselves in West Virginia, with less money than we thought we were going to have, and needing to cut spending. It is enough to make one wonder how all those revenue estimates were calculated. Were they based on facts or hopes and assurances?

In a few short months the Legislature will again try to figure out how much money we will have to spend, and how it should be spent.

It is beginning to sound as though this $100 million cut is just the start. Surely there will be revived talk of right-sizing government and eliminating waste and fraud. Lawmakers will have to stick to their guns, and ask a lot of hard questions.

Big talk means nothing, no matter how much politicians hope it fools us.

Voters aren’t buying it anymore, and lawmakers are learning they can’t be fooled again next year, either.

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