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Tomblin proposes $17 million for child-care subsidies

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office won't cut child-care assistance after all, the governor said Wednesday in his State of the State address.

Tomblin said he is proposing $17 million for the to preserve the state's child- care subsidies program.

"Access to childcare not only assures young children receive quality early childhood development, but it helps parents keep their jobs," the governor said in Wednesday's speech.

Last summer, Tomblin had proposed cutting child-care subsidies to an estimated 800 families with 1,400 children. Those cuts would have affected those with an income between 150 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty line. Families of four who made more than $35,325 a year would have lost funding.

Tomblin also raised co-payments for eligible families last August.

The governor blamed declining federal funding for the shortfall in the child-care subsidies program.

Margie Hale, executive director of West Virginia Kids Count, praised Tomblin's decision to fund the child-care subsidies program.

"The fact that the governor is going to do that is really terrific," Hale said.

She said research shows for every dollar the state spends on children up to 3 years old, it gets back $5 to $7 in taxes the child eventually pays and in money it would have spent had the child ended up in prison.

"I'm glad the governor sees how important that is and we need to invest more in that age group," Hale said.

Tomblin's proposed budget will not cut Medicaid funding, he said.

Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said Tomblin is to be commended for his commitment to children.

"There is no doubt that shoring up the shortfall in child care assistance and Medicaid will help thousands of low-income families and that moving toward universal Pre-K and advancing early childhood care and education is the best investment we can make as a state," Boettner said.

Tony Gregory, vice president of legislative affairs for the West Virginia Hospital Association, was pleased to learn that Medicaid would not be cut.

"On a state level, Medicaid represents a significant part of the state budget but also brings in federal dollars," Gregory said. The state gets three federal dollars for every dollar in spends on Medicaid, Gregory said. "The governor and the legislature has consistently recognized the value of the match which allows states to get matching federal dollars."

Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare, said he's interested in seeing how the governor intends to avoid cutting Medicaid without raising taxes.

Bryant said the state has been using reserve money, partially from the stimulus, to pay for Medicaid.

"That's a precarious position to be in," he said. "It's like using your savings account to pay your grocery bill. When you're saving account is gone, how do you pay your grocery bill?"

The state's substance abuse problem was another focus during the governor's speech.

A new website, Faceyourfuturewv.com focuses on the state's work force and provides resources for jobseekers and employers. It also lists county-by-county resources for drug treatment.

The website is part of a larger campaign to raise awareness of substance abuse problems in West Virginia, according to the website. The campaign will also include television, newspaper and outdoor advertising in addition to the website.

"Beginning today, we will carry the message: if you get high, you won't get hired," Tomblin said. "Drugs aren't working."

Tomblin's Advisory Council on Substance Abuse recommended that the state raise alcohol and tobacco taxes and use the money for drug abuse treatment and prevention. Instead, the governor touted a budget on Wednesday that contains no tax increases.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said Tomblin understands the health of West Virginia's residents and its workforce are mutually supported interests.

"We're happy to see him understand and support the linkages between economic vitality and good health outcomes for the state," Gupta said.

Staff writer Ken Ward Jr. contributed to this story.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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