By Bob Weaver

Is it the biggest self-serving political cash cow ever created in cash-strapped West Virginia, or is it a really nice way of handing out about $35 million every year to fund things that never get funded?

If you are a poor county that hangs from year to year, you might like the Digest, although much of the money goes to counties represented by the leadership, sometimes a million dollars or more to build a college in their bailiwick. Yes, Virginia, there are big ticket items beyond a few bucks for fire departments, civic organizations and little league teams.

The West Virginia State Supreme Court is answering such questions this week.

A lawsuit filed by former Justice Margaret Workman on behalf of Cabel Delegate Arley Johnson, the American League of Women Voters, the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union and the West Virginia Education Association - contends legislative leadership uses the money to maintain power and influence votes. Del. Johnson was whammed by the Speaker Bob Kiss for his dissenting view and removed from committees.

The suit also contends legislative leaders manipulate the budget process in defiance of separation of the legislative and executive branches.

Workman contends a handful of leaders decides how to spend millions of dollars. She says the entire Legislature should decide on how funds are spent. She says leaders use the Digest money and the Governor's Contingency Fund to spend this money.

Speaker Bob Kiss and Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin say they are "only suggesting legislative intent."

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