The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
Let’s not do that again.
Tax collections have fallen — ever so slightly — in recent years. The time has come for state government to adjust its spending to fit the wallets of the taxpayers.
To that end, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin continued a hiring freeze indefinitely. That is what a business does when its sales stagnate or even drop.
This hiring freeze affects all non-emergency state employee positions, according to the governor. Obviously, openings in corrections will be filled, for example.
But this is a good opportunity for Tomblin and the rest of the management staff to review the staffing needs of state government. If the state can get by with seven people in an office instead of 10, then do so.
If not, then the duties of the office need careful review.
Government agencies are notorious for mission creep, in which the agency seeks to protect and expand its budget by assuming new functions that go beyond the legislative intent when the Legislature created the organization.
Also, computers have made administering government easier. As the public uses computers to file paperwork and pay their taxes, the need for staffing in government declines. That should eliminate positions.
Reduction in government should not be limited to eliminating vacant positions. Gov. Tomblin and his cabinet members should eliminate filled positions and assign those employees where they are needed.
West Virginia ranks No. 8 among the 50 states in percentage of its workers who work for the government, according to the Census Bureau. That includes federal and local government workers.
After all, the private businesses that generate most of the tax revenue in the state know that they must keep their costs down. So should the state.
— Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail