"Read my lips: no new taxes" are the six words that killed the first Bush presidency.
Republicans in West Virginia have a once-in-a-century opportunity to reduce state government thanks to the boneheadedness of the Democratic governor, Jim Justice.
Using a playbook that a previous millionaire Democratic governor, Gaston Caperton, used nearly thirty years ago to ramp up taxes, Justice has presented a revenue estimate considerably below expected expenditures. In this case, $4,055,200,000.
Justice wants to spend $4,707,626,000.
He believes he is forcing the Legislature to give him the big tax increase which will anger voters against Republicans.
The Legislature cannot increase that revenue estimate without raising taxes.
But the Legislature can reduce spending, which gives the Republican Party a golden -- nay, platinum -- opportunity to cut the budget.
Instead of demanding another $450 million in tax increases from the second-poorest people in the nation, Republicans must cut spending.
The elimination of entire agencies is possible. There is no reason to fund Mountain Stage, public broadcasting, or the breeder's cup.
Already the Gazette is demanding we spare public broadcasting because its budget is "only" $30 million.
(A side note to lawmakers, if you are pissing off the Gazette, you are doing it right, but you already knew that.)
Now legislators need to look beyond that $4.7 billion general fund for cuts.
The actual spending by the West Virginia state government tops $12 billion. It includes federal money such as the Medicaid program.
Medicaid is too well-lobbied by the medical industry to cut.
But the $3.5 billion in special revenue accounts are ripe for plucking.
Many of these accounts and agencies serve as little spending fiefdoms for connected Democrats and their families. Most of them have large reserves under control of appointed staff or their boards, and not the people's representatives in the legislature.
Lawmakers need to bring these special revenue accounts back into the mainstream.
Many of these special revenue agencies are over-funded with a large "special revenue" reserve.
Bust these piggy banks before raising taxes.
I would start with the Lottery, which is sitting on (according to the governor's budget) $153,081,580. All told, these agencies have $5,587,062,713 in the bank.
You are going to up taxes by $450 million when you are sitting on 12 times as much money?
I would take a look at all the $5.5 billion sitting in special accounts and re-appropriate it.
The pension funds have a billion invested now. That's not enough. Make it $1.5 billion. Sure. Fully fund the pensions. The $100 million or so a year the state would earn on such an investment would ease the need to kick in as much money into the plan.
And put the money in stock index funds that charge very small fees instead of letting local stock brokers feed off the money.
But any slush funds need to go. Republicans need to ask some simple questions, like: Why is the jail authority sitting on $32,361,522?
Turning that $5.5 billion in "special revenue investments" into a super rainy day fund also will be a buffer against a tax increase. Draining the Lottery of its slush fund alone would reduce the budget gap by $150 million.
This will buy time to make more budget cuts next year.
The Republican Legislature should not fall for the trap of reducing troopers or teachers or any essential services.
Those small offices that offer nice services that are not essential are where the money is. That is where the money is, as well as the power. Be merciless. Don't fall for the "it's only" argument. Cut the luxuries before seeking more from the taxpayers.
The idea that you cannot fix the problem by cutting spending is ludicrous. That's how every taxpayer must do things when you hike their taxes.
Sure, fixing the budget by looking at expenditures will raise a fuss.
But so did Right to Work, and ending Prevailing Wage.
And the Republican majority held.
Make the cuts, and the Republican majority will hold again.
Raise taxes and watch for the return of Democrats for another eight decades. If we are doomed to a socialist government, may as well turn it over to the real socialists.
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