W.Va. Lawmakers Advancing Retiree Health Cost Plan

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Charleston, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia would tap emergency reserves and natural resource taxes under a legislative plan to tackle retiree health care costs.

The House Finance Committee voted Thursday to amend and advance a senate-passed bill that targets other post-employment benefits.

These non-pension costs are mostly health care. Officials estimate an $8 billion gap between on-hand assets and promised benefits.

House Finance approved devoting $250 million from a rainy day fund toward this liability. The committee also dedicated $95.4 million in annual severance tax revenues, once they erase a shortfall in a workers' compensation-related fund.

Another change increases a proposed cap on retiree premium subsidies. The bill advances to the full House.

(Copyright 2011 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)


Charleston, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia lawmakers may still address the massive funding shortfall from public retiree health care benefits this session.

The Senate Finance Committee met briefly Wednesday to advance a bill capping retiree premium subsidies and changing the way the funding shortfall is counted as debt.

But the measure does not include the proposed cigarette tax increase blamed for the demise of a separate proposal earlier this week.

The subsidy cap and other provisions would also not take effect until July 2012. Supporters say that will provide time to find alternative revenues for tackling an estimated $8 billion unfunded liability.

The bill would shift the burden for $1.5 billion from county school boards to the state. But the full Senate must pass it Wednesday and send it to the House.

(Copyright 2011 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)


Charleston, W.Va. (AP) -- A funding gap for public retiree health care is prompting West Virginia lawmakers to consider raising tobacco taxes and capping retiree subsidies.

A Senate bill introduced Monday also aims to ease concerns that prompted county school boards to sue unsuccessfully over retiree costs last year.

The measure focuses on other post-employment benefits, or OPEB. West Virginia estimates it lacks nearly $7 billion of what it's promised in these benefits, mostly health coverage.

This liability led the state to end coverage subsidies for employees hired after June 2010. The bill keeps that, and caps existing subsidies at $150 million annually.

The bill proposes tax increases on cigarettes and other tobacco products that are also pending in a separate measure.

(Copyright 2011 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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