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West Virginia state workers: Can you assist with budget?

December 12, 2002

If you're a state employee who has an idea how West Virginia can cut its costs, Gov. Bob Wise says he'd like to hear from you. Please help if you can, because saving money now may save state employee positions later.

The governor's decision to seek input directly from state employees indicates two things - the serious conditions of the state's finances and his apparent lack of confidence that state agency chiefs can do the job all by themselves.

The fiscal facts of life are not pretty. With a $30 million shortfall looming in the present budget year, Wise has asked all agencies to cut their budgets for the remainder of this year by 3.4 percent.

For the 2003-2004 fiscal year, as soaring costs for Medicaid and other health care costs push the state toward a predicted $250 million deficit, Wise has asked most agencies for a 10 percent cut.

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To raise revenues, the governor has proposed an increase in the cigarette tax, with the proceeds dedicated to Medicaid. Without that boost, Wise said that services would have to be cut and that already low reimbursements to health-care providers would need to be trimmed.

And although the judiciary was exempted from this year's 3.4 percent cut, the governor has asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider a proposed $6 million increase in its budget for next year. However, Chief Justice Robin Davis told Wise in a letter that without new cash it would be tough to implement the new family court system.

So much work has gone into changing the old family law master system that it would be near-tragic - for families and children involved in divorce, to name just one group - to see the changes derailed now.

The alternative is for state employees to respond as many did when Wise held his town meeting this week with 3,000 workers in Charleston and offer assistance in eliminating waste and cutting costs.

How can state workers do that? Call 1-866-558-4968, send an e-mail to wvecn@wvgov.org, or mail suggestions to West Virginia Employee Communication Network, 2019 Washington St., E., Charleston, W.Va., 25305.

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