By Mannix Porterfield
Dramatically speaking, it loomed as the most unkind cut of all.
Until Monday morning, that is.
And then life suddenly got a little more promising for Theatre West Virginia, the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, and a host of other fairs and festivals that soak up taxpayer dollars to stay afloat.
Culture and History Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith advised the House Finance Committee that he had adjusted the proposed cuts to comply with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s across-all-agencies spending rollback of 7.5 percent.
This means that TWV, based in Beckley and producer of outdoor dramas “Honey in the Rock” and “Hatfields & McCoys,” won’t be looking at a drop of $65,000, or 25 percent.
Instead, the cut proposed by Reid-Smith is $38,425, which would leave TWV a state allotment of $226,575. Overall, fairs and festivals would see 14.5 percent less funding.
Greenbrier Valley Theatre had been earmarked for a drop of $58,913, but now the reduction is at $23,042, meaning the group would get $135,871.
“It’s a whole lot more fair,” Delegate Rick Moye, D-Raleigh, a member of the finance committee, said after seeing the revised figures.
“A 14 percent cut is far better than 25 any way you look at it. I know that TWV won’t be excited about a 14 percent (cut) but it won’t be as devastating to them as a 25 percent cut would have been. I’m just hoping they can get some more community support and be able to continue. What they do is just amazing and it amazes me they’re able to do it on the budget they’re on, considering the cuts they’ve had, year after year now.”
The 14.5 percent cut isn’t written in stone and that figure could come down even further, House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, pointed out after the brief committee meeting.
“This will be one of the issues we will have to work through conference to see how much and what cuts are made,” White said.
“One of the big issues is on the lottery side. Some members have some concerns about some of the cuts were a little larger than 7.5 percent on the lottery side.”
Normally, the post-session budget work takes only a few days, and White said it is possible the final cuts to fairs and festivals will fall below the recommended 14.5 percent.
“A lot of fairs and festivals are near and dear to the members’ hearts,” the finance chairman said.
“We have to figure out how much we can sustain with lottery revenues projected to continue to be down a little bit. We’ll try to do the best we can. I know how much these small fairs and festivals mean to all our communities back home.”
Southern lawmakers pledged to give it their all in a fight to minimize the cuts to TWV.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep the funding for TWV as high as possible,” Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, said.
“Everybody knows in the last few months that the budget has been cut and everybody is feeling the pain. So, I think it’s reasonable to assume we’re going to take some type of cut. But 14.5 percent? That’s about double what was recommended everybody take. If we’re going to be fair, we should at least get back to 7.5 percent.”
Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, pointed out that TWV has been locked into a battle over money since Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was governor and he drastically slashed its account and lawmakers strove to get money restored.
“Now, we’re looking at a $38,000 cut,” Green said.
“It’s going to be tough. It’s a great asset to all of West Virginia, and I think it’s going to be imperative on the folks at TWV to find a way, whether it’s fundraising, or whether it’s tightening up the budget. It’s a vital program. It’s a vital service that’s productive to the state of West Virginia. We have to find a way to make it work.”
While the cut was eased for one in his district as well, Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, still isn’t pleased that Greenbrier Valley Theatre is getting hit.
“We’re not happy with the cut, but it’s not an end-of-the-world cut, either,” he added.
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