Advertisement

Underwood proposals have everything but the numbers

January 18, 2000

In West Virginia, the governor's State of the State speech traditionally outlines the chief executives plans and goals for the following year. But for incumbent Cecil Underwood, last week's speech was the first shot in the upcoming gubernatorial campaign. His opponents found much to dislike in it. We agree with them on one point: More specifics are needed, especially when Underwood's proposals would require more money at a time when revenues aren't meeting projections.

For example, the speech called for more money for economic development, creation of a small business grant program and support for the coal and steel industries. The governor also proposed to exempt veterans' pensions from the state income tax, beef up scholarship programs and create a pilot program for a state-funded pre-school program.

The governor also wants new legislation to help older West Virginians, including a task force on prescription drugs and a new nursing home for the state's veterans. He also pledged to boost the state's underfunded pensions system by selling $4 billion in bonds.

Advertisement

How all this will be accomplished is unclear, because the state is now experiencing a revenue shortfall that prompted the governor to ask all executive departments to cut their budgets by 3 percent. Lawmakers who chair the House and Senate finance panels say they doubt there'll be any new money to spend in 2000.

That's not good news for the state's new family court system, which is seeking a $10 million increase this year. On Friday, Chief Justice Elliott Maynard ordered a freeze on all non-essential spending, but it's unlikely that the move will yield $10 million.

The proposal to sell new bonds promises to save $500 million while costing the state only $32 million in service charges. But the size of the bond, the 35-year payback period and the possibility of recession makes many lawmakers apprehensive. The governor needs to calm their fears by fleshing out his ambitious program with some numbers that work.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|