STATE'S FINANCIAL PICTURE BLEAK - Government Promises To Reign In Spending

(02/19/2004)

Bob Weaver

With America's national government heading into trillion dollar debt, the worst in the nation's history - the State of West Virginia is facing critical financial problems in the next few years.

A legislative audit commissioned by a Senate Subcommittee finds the state is heading toward a $1.5 billion dollar debt by the fiscal year 2009-10. The study by the Legislative Auditor's office reveals the state's budget hole by 2010 will be more than $373 million.

Virtually every administration in recent years has been committed to reducing the cost of state government - reigning in the number of employees.

Never happens.

Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick says the state finally has to own up to the fact that it has more state government than it can afford.

The audit shows the situation is not just bleak.

Helmick says the state must face up to having more state government than it can afford.

"Our growth in government is 3.5 percent. Our growth in revenues to support that government is 1.5 percent. It's costing us in excess of $100 million a year," he said.

"We cannot continue to do business as usual. It's a different day. We cannot continue to grow West Virginia as we're doing it...with a deficit," he said.

In recent years, while cuts have been made, the number of state employees and program expansions have increased.


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