The following editorial appeared in The Intelligencer of Wheeling, West Virginia. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Times-News.
Remember when West Virginia’s lawmakers promised to “right-size” government? They’ve not made nearly as much headway as many had hoped.
But perhaps part of the reason for that is the enormity of the problem. It’s not easy to discover all the ways in which taxpayer money is being thrown away when it is part of the very fabric of state government in West Virginia. Recently, lawmakers heard an enlightening report from the Legislature’s Performance Evaluation and Research Division, which details an audit that showed more than $226 million was appropriated in the fiscal year 2022 executive budget in salaries and benefits for 4,857 vacant positions.
“Each year, several millions of dollars are appropriated for budgeted vacant positions, many of which have been vacant for several years with no evidence that agencies are trying to fill them,” said Lukas Griffith, senior analyst for PERD.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, voiced what many of us must have thought when he said simply “Wow.” Now it’s up to lawmakers to do something about it.
In private business, if a position has been vacant for years, with little to no effect on the operation, that position goes away.
With King Bureaucracy, things are different.
“… in many instances the budget bill provides permissive language that allows those agencies to transfer those funds that the Legislature has appropriated for personal services and employee benefits,” said Michael Cook, director of the State Budget Office. “That was one of the main concerns I had when I read the report. I didn’t want it to have the appearance that there were just millions of millions of dollars that could be swept in savings.”
But the audit showed in most cases the state agencies are not moving these unspent funds.
Lawmakers are in Charleston to represent and serve us, not the bureaucracy. Given the information they received, they know what they need to do.