Armstead says needed cuts won't spare education, DHHR

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Armstead says needed cuts won't spare education, DHHR
By Ryan Quinn, The Charleston Gazette-Mail

West Virginia Speaker of the House Tim Armstead said Thursday that the state can’t make “necessary” cuts in the upcoming legislative session if it doesn’t cut funding for education and the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

The Legislature faces a possible half-a-billion-dollar funding gap in next fiscal year’s budget if it doesn’t act to reduce expenses or raise revenues, and Armstead has expressed opposition to raising tax revenue overall.

“We’re talking about a $4 billion general revenue budget,” Armstead, R-Kanawha, told a group of reporters Thursday in a legislative preview. “You cannot make the cuts that are going to be necessary if you carve off DHHR and education, you can’t do it, I’m just being up front and honest. We’re going to have to look at those areas.”

“I believe that we can do some restructuring in those areas, some reductions in those areas, in a way that will not have a detrimental effect,” he said.

He said that’s because the Legislature can provide autonomy alongside the cuts.

“I’ve talked to a number of groups, a number of school systems that say, ‘Look, from the standpoint of the money that comes from the state to the county school systems, if we have flexibility in how to spend that, we can live with less,’” Armstead said.

But the speaker didn’t provide many firm specifics Thursday as to where exactly these funding cuts will be or how exactly the autonomy will be offered.