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Consider cuts in spending soon

West Virginia legislators heard good news and bad news about the state budget this week. The good news is that after two months in which revenue estimates missed estimates by a mile, September should be better.

The bad news: If that happens, it will be because of a technicality.

Mark Muchow, who is deputy secretary of the Department of Revenue, said revenue “should improve a bit in September.” Before legislators had time to celebrate, he explained: Because August ended on a Saturday, some revenue collections that might otherwise have been recorded for that month will be on the books for September, instead.

As we reported, Muchow continued with a prediction that the remaining nine months of the fiscal year will not be good in terms of state revenue. Much of the blame goes to lower severance tax collections from the gas and coal industries, he added.

There is no reason to believe those factors will change for some time — if at all during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Gov. Jim Justice has already asked agency heads to plan for a 4.6 percent spending cut. That may be optimistic; at the end of August, revenue was 6.8 percent below estimates on which the budget is based.

There is no sense whistling past the graveyard on this one. The longer spending cuts are postponed, the more painful they will be once implemented. Justice may want to consider ordering the reductions early this fall.

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