CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Advocates for programs designed to support West Virginia’s kids and families are calling on Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to let lawmakers revisit more than $1 million in budget cuts to those programs as part of a May Special Session.
During a Wednesday conference call, representatives of the affected groups repeatedly said such restorations for in-home family education, family resource networks, child advocacy centers, domestic violence programs and services, child abuse prevention and other social programs were “the right thing to do.”
“It’s a small enough amount of money that there are loads of options in terms of where it (the restoration money) could come from,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.
“We’re doing the best we can to make a case that is both moral and financial about why these programs are important.”
In recent years, Delegate Nancy Guthrie (D-Kanawha, 36) said many of the programs have already absorbed cuts or have not had any funding increases at times when the costs of services have risen and more families are seeking assistance.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me, economically, to diminish their ability to grow their programs, especially when their programs are of such vital need in such challenging times,” Guthrie said.
“If I thought the economics that were being proposed through these cuts made any sense, then I would be quiet about it, but I believe that we’re at a point where we may end up costing the state more money, over the long run, by making these cuts than if we restored these cuts.”
A report from the statewide group, called “Our Children, Our Future,” released Wednesday showed the programs, together, leverage more than $14 million in federal and private funds. As a specific example, the report said, for every $1 invested in in-home family education programs, the report said the return to the community is an estimated $5.70.
“It’s critically important to remember that these cuts are not just figures on a spreadsheet. These cuts are real. They will hurt families and kill jobs,” said Jim McKay, state coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia.
Members of the Senate and House restored the more than $1 million in cuts earlier this year, but Gov. Tomblin used his line item veto power to remove those restorations before signing the state budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
Tomblin is expected to call a Special Session for state lawmakers during interim meetings in May. At this point, what will be addressed during that Special Session has not been finalized.