Budget Beat – January 31, 2014

Kids and Families Day at the Capitol – February 4

Next Tuesday, February 4, hundreds of children and families will come together for Kids and Families Day in at the state Capitol, a part of the Our Children Our Future Campaign. Join us for a day of reminding legislators the importance issues that affect working families and children: raising the minimum wage, establishing a Future Fund, requiring fairness for pregnant workers, and providing physical activity for kids during the school day. Registration starts at 8:00AM with activities taking place throughout the day in the lower rotunda.

Our Children Our Future with Children Silhouette

Legislation Introduced on Two Our Children Our Future Priorities

Today Senate President Jeff Kessler introduced a bill to establish a Future Fund. To see how this year’s bill differs from 2013, read this article in today’s Wheeling Intelligencer. Here’s an editorial endorsing Senator Kessler’s support of the Future Fund.

Legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage to $8.25/hour appears to be moving through the House of Delegates, clearing the House Industry and Labor Committee earlier this week. For more, check out the Charleston Daily Mail. As the WVCBP has researched, raising the minimum wage would help thousands of West Virginians as reported by the West Virginia Public News Service this week.

Raise the Wage
Increasing the pay of the lowest-paid workers is a step toward decreasing income inequality in the state. West Virginians are among the most productive workers in the country but their hard work benefit CEO and go toward company profits more than their own paychecks. Get the facts in Sean’s blog post this week.

DEP Facing Budget Cuts

There have been concerns about limited resources at the WV Department of Environmental Protection to conduct investigations and follow-up with citizen complaints, and that was before the January 9 chemical spill. Fiscal Year 2014-15 budget cuts will take the DEP to funding levels not seen since 2008. Read more in this Charleston Gazette article.

VERA Supported by AARP

The AARP announced its legislative agenda last week which includes support of Voluntary Retirement Accounts (VRAs). You may recall the WVCBP’s report on how VRAs would provide private-sector employees who don’t have access to a retirement plan a low-cost way to safe for their retirement.

West Virginia’s Wages Have Room to Grow

A proposal to raise West Virginia’s minimum wage is currently working its way through the legislature. If passed, the state’s minimum wage would increase from its current level of $7.25 to $8.25. This would increase the wages of 113,000 West Virginia workers (and the parents of 42,000 children). Currently 21 states and the District of Columbia have raised their minimum wage above the federal level. So why is now a good time for West Virginia to raise its minimum wage?

West Virginia’s workers are more productive than ever. In fact, since the end of the recession, and the start of the current business cycle, (which coincidentally overlapped with the most recent minimum wage increase), worker productivity in West Virginia has risen 6.5%, the 8th fastest rate among the 50 states.

top 10 productivity states

But the productivity gains of West Virginia’s workers did not flow back to them. While productivity increased by 6.5%, average wages only increased by a meager 1.8% and the median wages actually declined.

productivity and wage growth

So where did the productivity gains go, if not to worker wages? As the table above shows, while average worker’s wages fell behind their productivity, the average hourly pay of chief executives far exceeded productivity, growing 17.9%. 

Workers in West Virginia have not fully shared in the economic gains of the last few years, despite their increased productivity. Instead, as profits and CEO compensation rise, worker wages have stagnated. Increasing the minimum wage is a good first step towards making sure that West Virginia’s workers are realizing the fruit of their labor.

Budget Beat – January 24, 2014

Free Movie Tonight/Budget Breakfast Presentation Online

Tonight – Free Movie!

Join us tonight at the Culture Center for a screening of “Inequality for All” from 5:30-7:00PM. A discussion and reception will follow. Learn more about what you can do to fight income inequality in West Virginia!

Evite WV-1.24Congratulations, Renate!

Today in Washington, DC, WVCBP Chair Renate Pore received the Consumer Health Advocate of the Year Award at the annual Families USA Health Action Conference.

“Because of Renate’s efforts, West Virginia ranks among the top states in having the highest rates of children insured through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. She has taken that same energy and is working to get young West Virginians to enroll in health care-important both to the young people themselves and the state’s overall pool of enrollees,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA.

Way to go, Renate!

Five Big Questions About the Massive Chemical Spill

It’s on all of our minds and we have so many questions. We think this Washington Post article helps pull together some of the most fundamental concerns surrounding the January 9 chemical spill and resulting water crisis.

In Case You Missed It

On Wednesday, we held our first Budget Breakfast. Despite the frigid temperatures, many of you braved the weather to attend. If you missed it, Ted’s presentation is available here. Thanks to Senate President Jeff Kessler for his opening remarks including his support for a West Virginia Future Fund, or as he also called it, the What If, Why Not Fund.

2014 Budget Breakfast

2014 Budget Breakfast – January 22, 2014

Win This Collector’s Item!

Help the WVCBP Wonks! The first person to provide a government document that shows how much West Virginia is projected to spend on Medicaid (using state, not federal dollars) in FY 2015 wins this mug!

wvcbp mug

Budget Beat – January 17, 2014

Join Us At Next Week’s Budget Breakfast

The 2014 Budget Breakfast is just a few days away. Join us on January 22 as we discuss the governor’s proposed budget and how we can educate and activate state legislators on how any proposed cuts could impact important programs in the Mountain State.

Tickets are $20 and include a breakfast buffet. Registration opens at 7:30AM and the Budget Briefing takes place from 8:00AM – 9:00AM.

Register now!

Sponsorships are still available at the $250 level (includes 2 tickets), the $500 level (includes 4 tickets) and the $1,000 level (reserves a table of 8). Sponsorship includes being mentioned in conference materials.

Decline of Public Employee Wages Has Ripple Effect

A large portion of our workforce has not seen a wage increase in quite some time: public employees. Take that shrinking wage base, add in the Sequester cut-backs and that means less revenue collection for the state. Find out more about what this is doing to the state budget in Sean’s blog post this week.

Free Movie – Inequality for All – Moved to January 24, 2014

Due to the water crisis, the screening of “Inequality for All” at the Culture Center has been moved to January 24, 2014 from 5:30-7:00PM. A discussion and reception will follow. Apologies for any inconvenience!

Evite WV-1.24

Water Crisis in the News

As we all struggle to get our lives back to normal, here are some interesting articles regarding last week’s chemical spill from Robert Reich, film maker of “Inequality for All,” National Geographic, and this Bloomberg piece that quotes WVCBP Executive Director Ted Boettner.

Inequality for All Screening – January 24

5:30 – 7PM

The Culture Center

State Capitol Complex

What is Holding Back Personal Income Growth?

General revenue collections for December 2013 ended up $24.1 million below estimates, and are down $81.5 million for the year. The biggest underperformer so far has been the personal income tax, which is currently $63.9 million below estimate. So what is the cause of its poor performance?

To understand why personal income tax revenue isn’t living up to expectations, let’s take a look at its source: personal income. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis,  total personal income in West Virginia has grown 2.8% over the past year (from 2012Q3 to 2013Q3, the most recent quarter). That’s pretty slow growth compared to the rest of the country. Nationally, personal income grew 3.6% over that time period, while West Virginia’s rate of 2.8% ranks us 46th among the 50 states and D.C.

So the state’s personal income growth is low, holding down revenue growth. But we can dig a little deeper in the BEA data to get a better idea of what is happening. One obvious source of personal income is wages and salaries. Using the BEA data, we can break down wages and salaries by industry to see where growth, if there is any, is occurring, and where it is not. The table below shows the five biggest industry sources of wages and salaries in the state for the past five quarters.

Untitled

The five industries listed in the table: government (including federal, state, and local), health care, mining, manufacturing, and retail trade, make up more than 60% of the total wages and salaries in West Virginia. And two of the industries, health care and mining, which make up nearly a quarter of the state’s wages and salaries, are doing quite well. Wage and salary growth in the mining sector have grown 5.4% over the past year, nearly twice that of the total, while wages and salaries in the health care sector have grown almost 10%.

On the other hand, growth in manufacturing and retail are slower, both below average, both below 2%. But the real interesting story is in the state’s biggest source of wages and salaries – government. Wages and salaries paid to public employees, from federal workers to school teachers, make up 21% of all wages and salaries in the state. And income from this source has shrunk over the past year, by 0.5%, a loss of $32 million.

The decline of public employee wages can be seen at all levels of government. State and local government wages and salaries are down 0.3%, while federal government is down 0.7%. Military wages and salaries are also down by 3.3%. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that the public sector is faltering. The sequester cut $85 billion from the federal budget on March 1, 2013, and government wages and salaries in West Virginia fell by nearly $80 million the next quarter. Add on to that the economic drag the sequester had on the economy, and you’ve removed a significant chunk of the state’s tax base. So remember, when the lack of revenue leads to more state budget cuts this year, it was federal budget cuts that helped get us here in the first place.

FY 2015 Budget Preview

The Governor’s FY 2015 Executive Budget was released last week. After an across-the-board round of 7.5% cuts in last year’s budget, followed by a $30 million mid-year cut, this year’s budget features another round of cuts, totaling $70 million. The chart below list a sample of those cuts.

Highlights include higher education, which bore the brunt of last year’s cuts, facing another $5.6 million in cuts. Nearly $500,000 was cut from a number of programs in the Development office, while Division of Health programs were cut by $2.3 million. Human Service programs were also targeted for cuts totaling almost $4.9 million, including Family Resource Networks, Domestic Violence Legal Services, In-Home Family Education, and Domestic Violence Prevention.

A file comparing the entire FY 2014 Enrolled and FY 2015 Proposed budgets can be downloaded here: FY 2015 Budget.

fy15 budget cuts

Budget Beat – January 10, 2014

Governor Releases State Budget

Right at the start of the 2014 Legislative Session came news of mid-year budget cuts that will fall heavily on the state Department of Health and Human Resources and on the state’s colleges and universities. These additional cutbacks will be in addition to budget reductions already impacting these agencies and their important programs. For more specifics on where the impacts will be felt, see Sean’s blog post this week.

Despite his newly proposed budget cuts, in his State of the State address on Wednesday, the governor announced long-overdue pay raises for state employees. To pay for these, and the budget gap, he will dip into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, the first time this measure has been taken. The governor’s budget also includes reductions to some very important programs, including Home Visiting and the Center on End of Life Care.

Confused? WVCBP Executive Director Ted Boettner will sort out what this all means at the 2014 Budget Breakfast taking place on January 22 at the Charleston Marriott from 8-9AM. Breakfast starts at 7:30AM. Tickets are $20.

Register now!

Senate President Jeff Kessler will provide opening comments and provide his perspective on this year’s state budget.

Sponsorships are available at the $250 level (includes 2 tickets), the $500 level (includes 4 tickets) and the $1,000 level (reserves a table of 8). Sponsorship includes being mentioned in conference materials.

Our Children Our Future Planning Meeting Near You

The Our Children Our Future campaign is taking it to the streets with meetings this month throughout the state. Learn more about how to beat back the effects of budget cuts that are sure to impact the state’s low-income families and their children.
Our Children Our Future with Children SilhouetteThis week’s meetings:

January 13: North Central WV (Mon/Taylor/Preston/Harrison) Monday 10am-noon Harrison County FRN office – Contact Lisa Wotring

January 13: Cabell County 4 pm, Enslow Park Presbyterian; Linda Anderson

January 14: Ohio & Marshall – Catholic Charities in Wheeling – 10-noon – Contact Lisa Wotring 

January 14: Logan & Boone County – noon, Logan Library; Lida Shepherd

January 16: Barbour County – World Vision in Philippi – 10-noon – Contact Lisa Wotring

Is West Virginia’s Government Transparent or Accountable?

This week, the State Journal posed this question to WCBP Executive Director Ted Boettner and others. The answer: we have no way of knowing. For years, the WVCBP has called upon state government to provide more transparency, with the best way of doing so to create a Legislative Fiscal Office. Establishing this nonpartisan entity to look at the state budget and fiscal notes would help provideaccountability in state government.

Next Week – Free Screening of “Inequality for All”

Come down to the Culture Center on Tuesday for a free screening and discussion of “Inequality for All” from 5:30-7:00 PM. Clips of the movie will be shown and discussed. A free reception to follow. RSVP to Alyson.

Inequality for All evite

More Budget Cuts Coming for West Virginia

On the heels of another lackluster revenue report, word of a mid-year budget cut has leaked, as Governor Tomblin issued an executive order calling on state agencies to cut an additional $33 million from their FY 2014 budgets. Budget cuts have become a common occurrence in West Virginia, as last year saw a $28 million mid-year cut, while FY 2014 started off with a $75 million cut, with West Virginia now one of the few states seeing such budget problems.

Dave Boucher’s article in the Daily Mail lists the cuts ordered by the governor. I’ve put them in a table alongside the cuts with which West Virginia started its fiscal year, to show the total effect of the budget cuts. Pending further budget adjustments, the FY 2014 budget will have been cut by $108 million, with over half of the cuts coming from higher education and DHHR.

budget cuts

The cuts to higher education have already had a negative effect on the state. Without raising additional revenue, West Virginia will continue to face more budget cuts, and be unable to make the investments needed for the state to prosper.

Budget Beat – January 3, 2014

Budget Breakfast – January 22, 2014

The legislative session is just around the corner and that means it’s almost time for Governor Tomblin to release his proposed budget. Will there be more budget cuts this year? What programs will bear the brunt? Don’t we need to invest more in education if we want to create economic opportunity?

Find out at the WVCBP’s inaugural Budget Breakfast on January 22 at the Charleston Marriott from 8-9AM. Registration opens at 7:30AM.

Tickets are $20 and include a breakfast buffet.

Register now!

Sponsorships are available at the $250 level (includes 2 tickets), the $500 level (includes 4 tickets) and the $1,000 level (reserves a table of 8). Sponsorship includes being mentioned in conference materials.

Future Fund Top Legislative Priority

Senate President Jeff Kessler has stated throughout interims that establishing a Future Fund in West Virginia is a top priority for him during the 2014 Legislative Session. Setting aside assets for the future, an opportunity missed during the coal boom, is a way to break West Virginia’s “resource curse.” To read more about why this is a good idea for the people of West Virginia, check out Ted’s interview in The Appalachian Voice.

On Monday, Ted will also be on a panel to discuss the Future Fund at the 2014 Legislative Lookahead sponsored by the West Virginia Press Association.

Southern West Virginia No Longer Wears Coal Crown

Coal production is declining across the state but even more so in southern West Virginia. Easy-to-mine coal is becoming hard to find and competition from natural gas is making its mark. The data present another wake-up call for West Virginia’s policymakers and the need to plan now for the state’s changing energy future. Read more in Ted’s blog post.

Free Movie – Inequality for All – January 14, 2014

The WVCBP, along with many sponsors, is proud to bring “Inequality for All” to the Culture Center on January 14, 2014. Please plan to attend this free screening and discussion on how the widening income gap is hurting the nation’s economy and its workers by sending an RSVP to Alyson.

Inequality for All evite

Many Other States Raise the Minimum Wage

One way to tackle the growing income gap is to raise the minimum wage. At the start of 2014, 13 states raised their minimum wage above the federal level bringing the national total to 21. West Virginia, however, remains at the federal level of $7.25 an hour. Even a modest bump in the minimum wage would help provide some financial independence for thousands of West Virginia families. More here in Alyson’s interview this week.