Commentary

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The Thrasher Group

February 4, 2011 - Volume 31 Issue 7

Commentary

“The Administrative Perspective” will be published in the February 11, 2011, edition of The Legislature. 

 

It was former Gov. Joe Manchin's policy to be conservative in revenue forecasts, and his successor, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, seems to be following suit. When West Virginia's spending does not match its budget, the difference usually is in the form of a surplus, not a deficit.
That is not the case in some states, however. During the past few years, some governors and legislators have been overly optimistic. That comes back to haunt them when they begin new budget years with deficits from past ones.

It has been suggested Mountain State legislators should add what would amount to a double check on state budgets. It would be in the form of a new fiscal analysis office within the Legislature. It would be entirely separate from the executive branch's mechanism for forecasting revenue and estimating spending needs.

A new legislative budget office would be comparable to the Congressional Budget Office that serves the federal government, state lawmakers were told recently by Paul Miller of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. "The state Legislature would likewise benefit from independent tax, fiscal and policy analysis," Miller said.

We agree. Again, revenue and spending estimates contained in governors' budget documents have been remarkably accurate during the past several years. But a few dollars spent on a legislative fiscal analysis office would provide a backup mechanism we view as good insurance.

Legislators should proceed to establish the new office and ensure it is staffed with top-quality people. Our state's record for prudent fiscal management is excellent, and the new office could help keep it that way.

This editorial appeared in the Jan. 29, 2011, issue of the Intelligencer (Wheeling). Used by permission.