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Howard's Commentary - Invest. Don't Throw in the Towel.

Governor Justice is thinking big and looking at more than "balancing the budget". His greater goal is to see the state survive, thrive, and grow. And he knows that can't be done by slicing and dicing the very programs and services that define state government.

A future West Virginia that is attractive to business and to young creative people needs to be one that reaps the rewards of investment, not cuts.

But in developing his budget, the Governor spread the "pain" around through all sectors of society. It's a move that makes sense but also opens him up to criticism from all sides.

Although the budget cuts proposed were small in the overall package, they are big for entities that suffer them. WV Public Broadcasting has already begun a public offensive against them.

Eliminating all state funding endangers our ability to provide PBS Kids programming to low-income children who need it the most. WVPB's main PBS channel provide 67 hours per week of educational children's programming. And the station just launched a new 24/7 PBS Kids Channel.

The elimination of funding also hurts more than 6,000 educators and homeschoolers who depend on videos and curricula on our West Virginia Learning Media website.

This budget also eliminates all funding for WVPB's Mountain Stage, West Virginia's calling card to the world. More than 13,000 people attended a Mountain Stage concert in West Virginia last year, leading to more than $1 million in direct economic impact.

What does the Governor's proposed elimination of all funding for Mountain Stage save? $300,000. (Friends of WV Public Broadcasting press release)

WVU and Marshall each are looking at 4.4% cut and you can expect them and others in the $27 million of cuts to lobby for a lighter trim.

  • Raising the consumer sale tax hits middle and working class West Virginians the hardest.
  • Business gets bit with a .2 % Consumer Activity Tax (or "B-and-O" tax) which most people feel is a bad tax to begin with.
  • Drivers will see a 10 cent/gallon hike in the gas tax (although it will be dedicated for leveraging a bond to do major hi way work).
  • Turnpike tolls will go up a dollar but state residents will pay $8/year to avoid paying the tolls.

Taken as a whole, it is a "rounded" package that gets a little from everyone and keeps mosts of state government intact.

But since everyone is hit, everyone will complain.

Leadership is making bold decisions and having the confidence to follow them through.

Republicans --who would prefer to see state government strangled of money and ended--are already claiming they're going to present an alternative budget balanced on the back of cuts--on the backs of people who need government services and programs, on the backs of parents who hope their kids can find a future here.

A budget of cuts is a budget of despair and defeat.

Not all of his suggestions will survive (even I don't like many of them). There will be more cuts (and maybe smarter ones) than he proposed. Likely less taxes or different ones. A robust debate on the right mix is good.

But the focus needs to be on growing the state, not throwing in the towel.

Governor Justice is looking at the big picture

He's on the right track, but Justice needs to pull out the stops in selling this proposal to the people and the legislature.

You can't move the state forward by STOPPING doing the state's job.

You have to invest in order to grow.

And a West Virginia that has a positive economy and that young people want to return to, or come to, needs Justice's big thinking, enthusiasm, and commitment to investment for growth.