The Buzz

Democrat Governor Wants to Cut Taxpayer Funding for Public Broadcasting to Zero

At a time when President Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly considering cuts to public broadcasting, one Democrat governor already has proposed to eliminate taxpayers’ subsidies for his state’s TV and radio affiliates.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s budget proposal would cut state funding for the West Virginia Public Broadcasting, or WVPB, from $4.6 million all the way down to zero.

Justice’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal is aimed at closing a $500 million revenue shortfall. It also includes about $450 million in new tax hikes.

“You’re faced with a $500 million hole in the bucket,” Justice told the state Legislature earlier this month. “And the next year is a $700 million hole in the bucket … We’ve got an 18 carat dog’s mess, don’t we? We do. I didn’t create the dog’s mess. I have inherited the dog’s mess. And I am telling you, you have to have real direction and real ideas and real cooperation together to be able to get out of this.”

Justice went on to broadly talk about making spending cuts and tax hikes painless, but didn’t specifically address public broadcasting during his State of the State address.

Justice’s spokesman Grant Herring didn’t return multiple phone calls and emails from The Daily Signal on Wednesday.

WVPB CEO Scott Finn referred The Daily Signal to Herring for all questions.

The state’s portion of the funding makes up almost half of the WVPB’s $10 million budget, according to Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Foundation, which advocate on behalf of and raise private money for the state’s public broadcasting.

A statement from the organizations’ chairs read, “such a drastic and immediate cut threatens the very existence of our state’s PBS and NPR stations.”

“This state cut would translate into layoffs of up to 75 percent of our staff, which would endanger our ability to operate,” read the statement from Friends of WVPB Chairwoman Susan C. Hogan and WVPB Foundation Chairman Ted Armbrecht.

About $4.2 million of the $4.6 million covers the salaries and benefits for WVPB’s 71 employees, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Hogan told The Daily Signal the organization has hired a lobbyist and a marketing director to galvanize public support.

“Alternative ways [for WVPB] to exist would be as a private nonprofit. The other is to become part of a university,” Hogan told The Daily Signal. “The former would take years to get to that point. The latter would take intense negotiation.”

The state Legislature is holding hearings and drafting its own budget proposal, said Jared Hunt, spokesman for West Virginia House Speaker Tim Armstead, a Republican. For now, the speaker doesn’t have a specific position on public broadcasting. But, it’s ultimately up to the governor, Hunt said.

“Even if we do restore the funding, the governor does have line-item veto power and if he wanted to, he could take that funding back out,” Hunt told The Daily Signal. “If he wanted to take that funding back out in the final version of the budget bill, that is his prerogative. A lot will depend on what the governor’s perspective is at the time.”

Taxpayers, whether at the state or federal level, shouldn’t have to fund what is heavily liberal-leaning programming, said Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

“Whether it’s state or federal, all taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to fund such marked bias,” Gonzalez told The Daily Signal. “They have been criticized for this for years, and their only defense is ‘No, we’re not [biased].’”

Trump met Wednesday with his budget team at the White House, as the president plans to present a budget proposal in the near future. News reports say he intends to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the agency that oversees the TV network, Public Broadcasting System, as well as National Public Radio.

U.S. taxpayers spend $445 million annually on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In brief remarks from the White House, Trump didn’t address any specific detail other than cutting waste and getting spending under control. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sat on each side of the president, while other top advisers were also in the Roosevelt Room with him.

“The finances of this country are a mess but we’re going to clean that up,” Trump said. “I will be holding everybody accountable for that.”

Gonzalez thinks PBS and NPR could do well as private nonprofits.

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