CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The operations of state government need a clear focus, according to a former West Virginia tax and revenue secretary, just more than six months ahead of a looming new fiscal year that already comes with a projected $400 million shortfall.
“You need to bring the focus back to what are we going to do, as state government, to promote prosperity in this state, because then it becomes an issue of accountability,” said Robin Capehart, who served in former Governor Cecil Underwood’s Administration.
The 2017 Regular Legislative Session opens on Jan. 11, 2017 before the Legislature adjourns until Feb. 8, 2017 which will be more than three weeks after Governor-elect Jim Justice officially takes office.
At the very least, budget matters are expected to dominate Justice’s earliest months in office and, many times, leading lawmakers have talked about “rightsizing” West Virginia’s government to save money.
“Rightsizing” means different things to different people.
The “rightsizing” of any organization, in Capehart’s view, involves the commitment of resources to fulfilling a “clear and concise” primary objective in an effective and efficient manner.
For West Virginia, Capehart said the objective should be about economic vitality, including job creation.
“You need to incorporate that into the missions of every unit of state government,” Capehart told Hoppy Kercheval during an appearance on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“Instead, what I think we have right now is, I think, we’ve got kind of this basket of agencies and programs and they each have their own independent purposes. A lot of them seem to be focused on just self preservation, but they all lack this clearly defined and unifying objective.”
Once an objective is established, Capehart said public programs or functions can be eliminated more strategically or restructured with possible shifts to the county level or the private sector.
Overall, Capehart admitted it’s easier to talk about “rightsizing” than to implement such steps.
During the Underwood Administration, he said an in-house review of the state government organizational structure along functional lines lead to cabinet posts almost doubling.
His advice for those now in charge is this:
“No. 1: Determine what you need to do and what you don’t need to do and then, what’s left, determine how can we operate in the most effective and efficient manner possible?” Capehart said.