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Road Fund: Legislators may need to discuss spending cuts

State officials have begun planning to reduce spending out of West Virginia’s general revenue fund by $100 million this year because revenue is coming in slower than had been hoped. But what about the other major state budget, the State Road Fund? It is in even worse shape.

At the end of October, four months into fiscal 2020, the $4.71 billion general fund was about $33 million in the hole.

But the much smaller State Road Fund, at $1.13 billion for the year, had hit an even deeper pothole. By the end of October, collections for it were $68.8 million behind expectations for the first four months.

Blame lagging federal reimbursements, the folks in Charleston say. On Oct. 31, they were $66.8 million below projections.

In the past, state officials have argued that is not a big concern. Washington is merely what amounts to a slow payer.

But when fiscal 2019 ended on June 30, federal reimbursements were $104.5 million below what had been expected.

What is really going on here? Is the federal government just dragging its feet in writing checks to West Virginia? Or is there some other trouble?

By the time legislators start talking about next year’s budgets, half of fiscal 2020 will be over. If the State Road Fund has not improved by then, there may have to be talk of spending cuts there — and that is, of course, the last thing we need.

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