Guarding against a budget meltdown

West Virginia’s budget is in fine shape, Gov. Jim Justice continues to proclaim. At first glance, the report of May collections for the general revenue budget seems to bear him out.

Through May, the 11th month of the fiscal year, the state has taken in $4.278 billion in general revenue account money. That is $81 million more than had been estimated, even with adjustments to account for supplemental spending approved after the original budget was adopted.

But wait. According to the state Budget Office, the revised fiscal 2019 budget is $4.650 billion — only about $15 million more than the original spending plan. Does it include all new initiatives approved after the budget was adopted earlier this year. Or is there more spending to be added and, if so, will it affect the year-end bottom line?

Also of concern is the separate State Road Fund. Legislators had approved $1.384 billion for it — but that has been revised down to $1.357 billion, or $27 million less. Even at that, 11-month collections for the fund were $62 million below estimates at the end of May.

Between the two funds, the revenue picture is not as rosy as optimists would have us believe. And, with legislators primed to spend more on public schools, that should be a concern. West Virginians have seen budget meltdowns during recent years. We don’t need another one.

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