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Tomblin: West Virginians choose between wants, needs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who has participated in state budget negotiations for 30 years as Senate Finance Committee chairman, Senate president, and as governor, took a harsh view Tuesday of the ongoing congressional impasse in the federal government shutdown.

"Many of our West Virginia families are faced with tough decisions every day -- choosing between wants and needs. Members of Congress need to do the same," Tomblin said Tuesday.

Tomblin joined a chorus of governors across the country expressing criticism and frustration at Congress' inability to resolve the partisan showdown.

"Our state, and those across our nation, are picking up the tab for the indecision taking place in Washington -- and families are hurting," Tomblin said. "The leadership in Washington needs to remember they were elected to not only represent our families, but to make these tough decisions."

West Virginia state offices and agencies will probably not see severe impacts from the federal government shutdown - as long as it's resolved this month, the director of the state Budget Office said Tuesday.

"Many programs have cash balances they can use to get through this month," said Mike McKown. "If we go into November with it unresolved, we could get into some cash-flow problems."

Federal funding accounts for about $4.6 billion of the state's total annual operating budget of more than $11 billion, with Medicaid and highways funding accounting for more than half the total federal appropriations.

"Highways funding seems to be OK, and Medicaid's OK," McKown said. "That's our two big [federal] budget items."

Additionally, hundreds of state programs receive federal funding. The Budget Office's alphabetical list of those programs runs 13 pages, from Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation to Youthful Offender programs.

Those programs will begin to be affected by the shutdown at different points, McKown said.

"I've got a big stack of reports that I'm only halfway through," he said of potential impact statements.

Additionally, about 10.5 percent of the state's payroll - about 4,000 full-time equivalent positions out of 37,000 state employees - are federally funded, McKown said.

Most agencies should be able to pay those employees through state funding reserves through the end of October, he said.

Ultimately, McKown said, the federal government has to get its financial house in order.

"We can't keep spending around $1 trillion more than we bring in each year," he said.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220. 


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