By the Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer
When it comes to topics like the state budget, it's not uncommon for eyes to glaze over. Most of us are more tuned in to stories or narrative than to numbers. It's no wonder that Jesus taught in parables rather than spreadsheets.
Besides that, budgets are complicated and boring, right?
Well, maybe they aren't as complicated and boring as they seem.
Let's start with complicated. Budgets are about values and choices, about what some people consider to be important and what they think is not.
Jesus had a way of cutting through questions like that. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6: 21). All a budget does is lay out where the treasure -- and the heart -- is.
As for budgets being boring, I've heard them compared to breathing. Breathing can be kind of boring, until there's no air, in which case breathing quickly draws your attention. Unfortunately, there are some things in the proposed state budget now under consideration by the Legislature that draws one's attention.
On the positive side, the proposed state budget avoids massive layoffs of state workers and drastic cuts in basic services. It even proposes modest raises for teachers and other public employees. It takes advantage of prudent decisions of the past by drawing on the Rainy Day Fund to get us through an undoubtedly rainy budget year. (The Rainy Day Fund stands on solid Biblical principals. The Bible tells us that Joseph was warned by God in a dream to set aside some savings from prosperous years to help survive seven lean years.)
However, the initial budget proposed by Gov. Tomblin also contains cuts to vital programs and this is truly disturbing. These cuts make up only a tiny portion of the state's $4.7 billion budget, but can have a devastating impact on vulnerable children and families.
For example, the Children's Trust Fund is the one funding stream in the state budget that is solely dedicated to support programs that prevent child abuse and neglect. It's embarrassing that we dedicate only $300,000 a year for such an important cause, and yet the Governor's budget proposes cutting it by over 26 percent.