CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Budget cuts are not the answer to fix West Virginia’s financial crisis, according to a campaign group focused on state budget priorities.
Protect West Virginia held a press conference Wednesday, the first day of the 2017 Regular Legislative Session, to urge state lawmakers to keep education, public safety and recreation programs in place.
Caitlin Cook, communications director with West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said raising taxes is an option.
“We cannot cut our way out of this. We cannot raid the Rainy Day Fund, again real solutions, that is going to be revenue generating measures,” Cook said. “It is going to be very difficult to ensure that our citizens have the programs and services they need without having some revenue generated measures.”
Four women spoke during Wednesday’s meeting held at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center in Charleston. Sarah Starks, a mother who just graduated from WVSU last Spring, said she fears more cuts will be made to higher education.
“I really think education, on all levels is the answer to every problem,” Starks said looking down at her daughter who she fears won’t have the same opportunities she had. Starks told MetroNews tax increases are necessary, even if most people don’t want to pay them.
“They think I’m pay check to pay check. How am I going to pay more taxes?” she said. “But that’s why you raise taxes that aren’t regressive in nature. That’s why you raise taxes that are going to benefit everyone.”
Starks said it’s sad that the state is losing people every year.
“We just need to keep people in West Virginia in general. When every student is staying in West Virginia then they’re living here, they’re spending money here, they’re contributing to the economy,” she said.
During the meeting, Starks also stressed the state should lower college tuition costs to keep people in the state.
The campaign formed because citizens wanted to express their thoughts about the state budget, Cook said.
“We wanted to work with people, coalition members and individuals to come together to form a campaign that gave them a platform to voice their opinions,” Cook said. “We just want this to be a conversation that has a solution at the end instead of just kicking the can down the road and then cut, cut, cut.”