Faculty Senate addresses budget deficit

Shortcomings in the West Virginia state budget have the power to affect the state’s citizens in countless ways, including the thousands of students enrolled in public universities across the state. The Marshall University Faculty Senate hosted a presentation by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy in the Don Morris Room of the Memorial Student Center Wednesday afternoon.

Ted Boettner, the Executive Director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy delivered an hour-long presentation and discussed the problems within the state budget that affect university students and offered possible solutions.

“One of the biggest problems is I don’t think we have an evidence based view on how our budget crisis happened in West Virginia,” said Boettner. “When you look at the evidence and research that we’ve been collecting it’s very obvious that the state has a revenue problem. We are collecting the same amount of revenue we did nine years ago and that’s to the accommodations of very large tax cuts and also a decline in our energy industries.”

Boettner said West Virginia has cut 600 million dollars from the budget in the last five years and he said it makes it difficult when some legislators say tax increases are off the table, which could mean drastic cuts to schools, higher education institutions, healthcare and infrastructure.

The presentation showed how the funds in the state budget is divided and spent. Most of the budget is spent on K-12 education, health and human services, road infrastructure and higher education. The funds for higher education however have been cut significantly since 2008. According to the presentation, the state budget for higher education in 2008 was $588.3 million. For 2017, the higher education budget is $456.4 million.

“The most important thing to us are the cuts to education funding, especially for higher education,” said Samantha Holiskey, a senior majoring in political science and English. “It doesn’t make sense to me to cut education the way that the presenter mentioned because if we do, the best reason to stay in this state is no longer on the table for students that can’t afford to go out of state and aren’t able to fund it without state assistance.”

The presentation also discussed several solutions that could help solve the budget problem within the state.

“There are a number of solutions that we can do and I think we have to take a balanced approach to revenue,” said Boettner. “We have to look at taxing some folks that make over $200,000 a year.”

Boettner also said that the state needs to look at raising revenue in other ways such as reinstating the grocery tax, raising the sales tax and taxes on tobacco and alcohol as well as raising some severance taxes. Boettner hopes that the people who attended the presentation feel empowered to take make their voices heard to the state legislature.

“I hope they are energized about talking to their legislators and letting them know how important these investments in higher education are to them,” said Boettner. “I wish we could avoid any more cuts to these important programs because it impacts everyone in our community.”

With Governor Jim Justice settling into his new office, he will begin to attack one of the main issues that he campaigned on, which was stopping the education cutbacks and trying to keep students in the state of West Virginia.

Adam Stephens can be contacted at [email protected].