In the Red: Be realistic in trimming next budget

Be realistic in trimming next budget

West Virginia’s state government fiscal dilemma is illustrated well by the relief state officials exhibited last week when they learned, one-fourth of the way through the current fiscal year, the general revenue budget is only $29.7 million in the red.

It could have been worse, to judge by the dismal performance in general revenue fund collections for the first two months of fiscal 2020. The $20 million collected in excess of estimates during September at least brought us up a bit.

Now is not break-out-the-champagne time, however. Take a look at the State Road Fund, the source of money to maintain and repair roads and bridges and to build new ones. At the end of September, that fund had collected a whopping $78 million less than had been expected for the first three months of fiscal 2020.

Federal reimbursements, at $70.3 million less than expected, are at the heart of the problem — and have been during the past few years. At the end of fiscal 2019 on June 30, they were $104.5 million below estimates.

What is the problem? Is Washington a slow payer? Or, even worse, are state officials budgeting higher federal reimbursements than are realistic? Imagine the trouble the rest of us would find ourselves in if we budgeted for the coming year hoping to receive more than what we can realistically expect to receive.

That is an issue state legislators should investigate during their regular session starting in January.