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'Rainy day' bills rooted in common sense

Thanks to two bills passed by the Legislature during its regular session, cities and counties will have a little something to fall back on during those "leaner" times.

Under the "rainy day" bills, cities could allocate general revenue surpluses to the new funds and accept gifts or grants. The money, which could represent up to 30 percent of the city's most recent general fund budget, could then be invested by officials when the hard times hit.

And why is such a fund so important?

Because it would mean that during economically depressed periods, a city might not have to cut services or raise taxes. There would be a financial cushion to soften the blow of temporary revenue shortfalls, one-time expenditures or emergencies.

In addition, Sen. Shirley Love, D-Fayette, a sponsor of the bill, noted that the money could also be used for economic development or other projects.

West Virginia itself has such a fund, according to another sponsor of the bill, Vic Sprouse, R-Kanawha. Sprouse said the state puts 50 percent of any end-of-year surplus into a "rainy day" fund. The Mountain State currently has $80 million it can use in the event of natural disasters or budget problems.

The bills have been praised by Charleston Mayor Jay Goldman. With unexpectedly high health care costs and unexpectedly low business and occupation taxes, Charleston was forced to cut personnel and services during this past fiscal year. Had the fund been in place, perhaps such measures would not have been necessary.

We, too, applaud the "rainy day" fund as its existence seems to be based in two, common sensical words: Be prepared.

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