Day 55: PEIA, pay raises, tax cuts and the budget bill
The House of Delegates was busy over the weekend.
Good morning and welcome back to 60 Days.
Today is Monday, March 6th — the 55th day of the West Virginia Legislature’s regular session.
While Dave and I were working our real jobs over the weekend, the West Virginia House of Delegates was busy with tax cuts, PEIA, its version of the budget bill and pay raises for public employees — all while state senators put their feet up. With “Final Night” looming this Saturday, they had time to take the weekend off, but doesn’t mean the state Senate won’t be busy this week.
We’ll recap the weekend and take a lookahead to this Monday in a second. But first, our clever coffee pitch.
It’s actually not that clever today. Let’s just say that if you find value in what Dave and I have been sending to your inbox since the beginning of the session in January, make a coffee donation. There’s less than a week left — and we’re counting on you to keep us caffeinated as we head toward the finish line.
As noted above, while state Senators took the weekend off, the House of Delegates convened a floor session Saturday morning and got busy passing major legislation.
Here’s a recap:
After hours of debate reflecting the controversial nature of the bill that addresses the financial problems faced by the Public Employees Insurance Agency, the House passed S.B. 268 on a 69-27 vote. Four Delegates were absent. The House made some changes to the bill so it’s back in the hands of the Senate, which will have to concur before it can be sent to Governor Justice for his signature.
PEIA became a front-burner issue when Wheeling Hospital said in January that it would no longer accept PEIA because of the agency’s low reimbursement rate.
The bill addresses the issue by setting the reimbursement rate at 110% of the Medicare rate. It also seeks to return PEIA to an 80-20 employer-employee split and makes other cost cutting moves that are opposed by state employee unions.
The House also passed S.B. 423, the $2,300 across-the-board pay raise bill for State Troopers and Teachers. Other state employees would see a like pay raise in the budget.
The pay raise passed 94-0.
Coupled with the tax cut package moving through the legislature, the pay raises are billed by supporters as way to help offset PEIA premium increases of as much as 26 percent.
Opponents say raises are not enough to cover the extra expense for many families.
The House also passed its version of the state budget for fiscal year 2024.
The bill calls for a general revenue budget of $4.6 billion.
The Senate’s budget bill puts that figure at $4.4 billion.
And on the tax cut package, Governor Justice is praising House passage of H.B. 2526, calling it “a historic deal.”
The bill would cut the personal income taxes by 21.25% and includes a rebate on personal property taxes, a tax benefit for veterans and a 50% percent rebate on the taxes small businesses pay on machinery and inventories.
Governor Justice says the deal would return $750 million to West Virgnia taxpayers.
Opponents say cutting taxes based on temporary factors such as the price of natural gas is not a good idea.
The bill now goes to Governor Justice for his signature.
Now it’s Monday, and the House will convene it’s floor session at the usual time, at 11 a.m. You can find the full floor agenda here.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail is highlighting S.B. 468, which is on third reading today.
The House Committe schedule:
9 a.m. Committee on the Judiciary - Room 410 - M
9:00 a.m. Committee on Education - Room 432 - M
Bills on the agenda include:
S. B. 251, Displaying official motto of United States in public schools and institutions of higher education.
Com. Sub. for S. B. 422, Requiring public schools to publish curriculum online at beginning of each new school year.
S. B. 619, Allowing teachers in public schools to teach intelligent design.
10:45 a.m Committee on Rules - Behind Chamber
1:00 p.m Committee on Government Organization - Room 215 - E
3:00 p.m Committee on Finance - Room 460 - M
Senators get back to work today. The full Senate meets at 11 a.m. for the floor session. The complete floor agenda is here.
The committee schedule looks like this:
10 a.m. Economic Development (Room 451M) Agenda TBA
10 a.m. School Choice (Room 208W) Agenda TBA
10:50 a.m. Rules (Room 219M)
1 p.m.: Military (208W) Agenda TBA
1 p.m.: Transportation and Infrastructure (451M)
3 p.m.: Judiciary (208W)
3 p.m.: Finance (451M)
ICYMI — West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. He said he would make a decision about his political future in December.
60 Days legislative links:
Federal judge met privately with WV lawmakers about an open lawsuit | mountainstatespotlight.org
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