So just how much in debt is the State of West Virginia? According to a recent article in the Charleston Gazette, no one seems to know. That's why legislative leaders have formed a joint committee to study the state's long-term debt.
According to the state treasurer's office, we're paying on about $3.3 billion in bonded debts. Much of the money has been used for roads, school construction and new jails. Certainly by borrowing money we have been able to improve our infrastructure and educational system.
But now the state is pondering an investment in $4 billion in bonds to retire debt in three pension plans. Some speculate it could take up to 30 years to pay it all off. Is this something we really want to do at this point in time?
The state is already having budget problems brought about by sagging tax revenues. And the budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $52 million from the tobacco settlement -- otherwise the state would be in the red.
Add in the PEIA deficit and a possible economic slowdown and one has to question the wisdom of putting the state into even more debt.
Before any action is taken on the $4 billion bonds, perhaps the state should wait and see what the committee on long-term debt comes up with. Its first task is to determine exactly how much the state owes.
It would seem to make no sense to borrow more money when you don't know exactly how much in debt you are now.