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Bipartisanship: Lawmakers deserve praise for crafting budget

West Virginia politicians can fight like cats and dogs — or, perhaps more apt these days, like Democrats and Republicans at the national level.

But events of the past week in Charleston have given Mountain State residents reason for confidence that when it is crucial, thoughtful, bipartisan leadership is available.

You read that correctly. And no, our usual skepticism about all things political is not on vacation. When questions and criticism are due, count on us to provide them.

What happened during the last week of the West Virginia Legislature’s 60-day session was gratifying, however. Working together, lawmakers and Gov. Jim Justice crafted what appears to be a responsible budget under trying circumstances.

During the year that begins July 1, the state’s general revenue budget will be $4.566 billion — $127 million less than for the current year.

In writing their versions of the budget, leaders in the Senate and House of Delegates had to make difficult decisions. Some very worthwhile initiatives were to be cut back.

Once the final budget document was ready for a vote, however, legislators had managed to provide additional funding to do very good things.

Justice deserves credit for budget realism. Rather than engage in unwarranted optimism about how much revenue the state will receive next year, the governor threw a bit of a monkey wrench into lawmakers’ budget work. On Friday, he informed them his revenue estimate had been cut by $19 million.

Good for Justice. Better to enact a budget based on realistic revenue estimates than to begin fiscal 2021 with the prospect of mid-year spending cuts.

When votes were tallied, the budget was approved by 33-1 in the state Senate and 96-2 in the House of Delegates. That is bipartisanship on a level impossible to achieve in Congress.

Flaws in the budget may become apparent during the coming months, or even after the new year begins. For now, however, it appears the governor and lawmakers have accomplished excellent work, for which all involved deserve a pat on the back.

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