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Cafe Society to discuss West Virginia Legislative process

By Staff | Jul 8, 2016

The next session of the Cafe Society on July 12 will discuss the results of this year’s legislative session and prospects for the year ahead. The regular participants will be joined by Del. Stephen Skinner.

The key focus in Charleston for months now has been concentrated on forging an agreement on the State’s 2017 budget by the 1 July deadline. That was accomplished after a protracted special session of the legislature, lots of political hand wringing, the threat of a State government shutdown and finally some reluctant compromises. The budgetary process provided valuable insight into the overall state of economic, social and political affairs in West Virginia. Skinner’s insight and participation should ensure an active and productive discussion.

These informal weekly discussions , an integral part of the Shepherd University Life Long Learning Program, are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the SU Student Center. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Cafe facilitator Mike Austin said, “Much of the sense of well being that Americans have come to expect is heavily influenced, if not controlled by how well expectations between the governed and their government are managed. Whether we like it or not, we are now immersed in a globalized economy that is driven by supply and demand phenomenon which in turn are heavily impacted by changing demographics, access to capital, environmental deterioration, and emerging technology. State economies like that of West Virginia which has been highly dependent on extraction of now diminishing and less attractive natural resources (first timber, and now coal) are failing. As a consequence we are no longer able to generate sufficient resources to fund our government services at the present level. Something has to give.

“A ‘business as usual’ approach is not feasible. We and those who represent us are caught in a pernicious dilemma. Either we reduce government services to match our resources, or we generate more funds through taxation, fees and other measures. Our State has been very innovative in deriving income from alternative means, such as horse racing, casinos, lotteries and other forms of gambling. But even those alternatives are impacted by our sluggish economy. And to make matters worse, key portions of our annual State requirements are not fully discretionary. They are either mandated entitlements, or unpredictable obligations such as Federal-State matching requirements or our share of MEDICAIDE.”

He continued, “Another expectation that is probably unrealistic is that we assume that our state representatives will be able to deal with a full year’s worth of complex and often intractable issues within the normal 60 day legislative session. It is hard to imagine that they can do their essential committee work to prepare for deliberation and informed decision without adequate time and dedicated staff support. So our discussion with Mr. Skinner will also explore how we can more effectively support him and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle as they prepare for the new legislative year. With reduced State population, declining revenue in all sectors, increasing public safety, education, public health, infrastructure, and environmental demands, they face a daunting year. It will also be a year of transition as well for many following the November elections. So hopefully there are some important lessons learned from this past session which Mr. Skinner can share, that will help us.”