On Mar. 23, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin exercised his line-item veto power to cut items from the budget. Some of the more noticeable cuts were to several early childhood and domestic violence programs that had been passed by the legislature in the FY2015 budget. Over $1 million in total was cut from a multiple of services including Child Advocacy and Child Abuse Prevention.
These line-item vetoes in turn motivated Del. Linda Goode Phillips (Wyoming County) to arrange a press conference at the capitol to address the cuts and to try and have the funding reinstated. Phillips, chair of the Select Committee on Crimes Against Children, hosted the press conference on May 8 and invited local Child Advocate Roger Lockridge to speak on behalf of both victims and employees.
In regards to the recent cuts, Lockridge stated, “Between my story as a victim and my work as an advocate, I have seen the system evolve over the last 20 years. It has come a long way but there is much more work to be done. If the Governor makes the right decision then we will hopefully celebrate progress instead of regret watching our work go backwards.”
The organization WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition states that the cuts will affect many jobs and the availability to services throughout the state. A recent press release noted, “Cuts to domestic violence grant programs and legal services by $387,900 mean between 560 and 1,120 victims of domestic violence may not get their needs met in a number of areas, including court accompaniment, safety planning, domestic violence education, and community referrals. Already underserved rural areas may see a further reduction in services or may lose a regular presence in the county.”
Jobs will not just be lost around the state, but have also started locally already according to Lockridge. “There are actually over 80 jobs on the line.” When asked about immediate impact locally Lockridge responded, “three people have already been let go.” In relation to the overall loss of services from the cuts, Lockridge added, “It will affect 100,000 people statewide between Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, Family Resource Services, In-Home Family Education, Tutoring, and other legal services.
Governor Tomblin has indicated he plans to call a Special Legistion Session on May 19 and Lockridge is hoping that a supplemental appropriations bill to restore the cuts could be a part of the agenda.