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Some vetoed social services funds restored

By Phil Kabler, Staff writer

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Wednesday that he will restore or partially restore $260,000 in funding to three Department of Health and Human Resources accounts, part of about $1.06 million in social service programs he reduced by line-item veto in March.

Tomblin said he is restoring $150,000 to the In-Home Family Education Fund, $80,000 to the Children’s Trust Fund, and $30,000 to the Domestic Violence Legal Services Fund.

In a letter to Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall and House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, Tomblin said he has received numerous requests to restore funding cuts he made.

In particular, there have been numerous calls to restore the line-item reductions in social services programs. Legislators serving on the Select Committee on Crimes Against Children have a news conference scheduled for today, urging the restoration of social services funding, calling it, “an investment that makes sense for West Virginia.”

In his March 27 veto message, Tomblin reduced the $4.5 billion 2014-15 budget passed by the Legislature by $67 million. The largest cut — $47 million in Medicaid funding — will be made up with a shift in Lottery funds, under a bill passed March 14. However, he also reduced funding for a number of accounts, including six social service programs back to amounts he had proposed in his budget bill.

Tomblin said that, in response to the funding requests, “I directed my Cabinet secretaries of Revenue and Health and Human Resources to consider these requests and provide me with their recommendations.”

He said the three funding restorations were recommended by Secretaries Robert Kiss and Karen Bowling, and he said the state will use reappropriated funds to keep the accounts at the same level as the current budget.

Tomblin also noted that Bowling advised that the In-Home Family Education program receives a dollar-for-dollar federal match, so the proposed $150,000 reduction would have actually cut the program by $300,000.

The program provides in-home visitations for parenting education and support.

The Children’s Trust Fund oversees several programs geared at preventing child abuse, while the Domestic Violence Legal Services Fund helps pay attorneys’ fees for domestic violence victims.

House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said Wednesday that he is encouraged by Tomblin’s decision to partially restore funding cut for the social service programs.

“All these programs, goodness gracious, are operating on shoestrings, and you can’t take away the string,” he said.

“You can’t take programs that actually save you a lot of money in the long run, and keep diminishing them to the point they’re not there anymore,” Perdue added.

Stephen Smith, with the Our Children, Our Future Campaign, said, “This is a first step, but only that. We cannot call this a victory when there are still 80 people who will lose their jobs if the remainder of these cuts are allowed to go through.”

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 3094-348-1220.


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