West Virginia taxpayers deserve better

By Larry D. Kump | Sep 18, 2014

FALLING WATERS – West Virginia's governor is proposing our next year's State Budget, and that proposal recommends siphoning off another $100 million from our "Rainy Day" fund in order to deal with an ongoing budget shortfall.

Meanwhile, some of West Virginia's Legislative leadership also are proposing increases in our State taxes and fees.

And, in regard to our West Virginia State Legislature, did you know that, after each annual legislative session, the Legislature convenes at the State House, almost every month, for Interim Legislative Committee meetings?

No legislation is enacted during these monthly meetings, but these committees do study recommendations on proposed future legislation and also review the results of the Joint Committee on Government & Finance's audits of various State agencies - to be sure, worthy tasks.

Even so, many lawmakers have been pointing out that these interim committee meetings have become too much about authorizing extra salaries and per diem (daily) expense payments (travel, lodging, & meals) for legislators and not nearly enough about conducting the people's business.

Also, an off-site monthly meeting of these committees traditionally is scheduled during one month each year.

Heeding the cautions from other legislators, that these off-site meetings are more about foolishness than legislative substance, it has been my previous practice to forego participation in those off-site meetings. However, this year, I decided that I should go and see for myself.

The other legislators were right, and here's why.

This year's off-site committee hearings were held during August and in Harrison County.

While lawmakers still received their per diem expense payments for the Harrison County meetings, lavish breakfast and lunch buffets nevertheless also were provided every day, not only for legislators but also for a multitude of legislative employees.

During the evenings, state agencies, such as West Virginia University and other legislative beneficiaries, were strongly encouraged to provide sumptuous receptions, meals, and other refreshments for lawmakers, wanna-be lawmakers, and others.

And so they did.

Also, a small fleet of buses was hired to chauffeur legislators on various tours.

(Note: While I did not participate in any of the evening festivities or any of the tours, others told me that the tour of a local area winery was very popular.)

Further and even though only a minimal legislative staff support was necessary, the number of legislative employees who participated in the Harrison County affair truly was mind boggling. Of course, these employees were provided with taxpayer funded lodging, travel, and other expense payments.

But, what about the actual committee meetings?

Well, one committee meeting to which I was assigned lasted a scant fifteen minutes. Another committee meeting lasted longer, but was devoid of any substantive business.

Finally and on a personal note, I was awakened in the wee hours of one morning during this taxpayer-funded extravaganza by a loud and boisterous (drunken?) individual in the hotel hallway, who was carousing with like-minded companions.

Now, the peaceful pursuit of any private person is nobody else's business, but what about the behavior of elected officials and their staff at taxpayer-funded gatherings?

Do Mountaineers deserve better?

What do you think?

Kump, a Republican, represents the 59th District in Berkeley County in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

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