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Unions Demand Fix to PEIA Funding

Liz McCormick
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

As lawmakers consider social issues, such as religious freedoms and gun rights, members of the minority party have continued to call for fixes to the ailing budget of the state public employee health insurance system.

But Republican leaders maintain the funding problem is one to worry about in the 2017 budget, something that can wait until the end of the session.

The West Virginia AFL-CIO called attention to the Public Employee’s Insurance Agency, or PEIA, funding issue during a press conference at the Capitol on Monday, Feb. 16.

The union represents a number of public employees including teachers, county and municipal employees, and communications workers, among others.

As the state budget has declined during the past few years, PEIA recipients have had to endure cuts to their benefits and increased costs.

"Today is the 34th day of the 2016 regular legislative session," said Joshua Sword, the Secretary-Treasurer for the West Virginia AFL-CIO, "which is over halfway through the 60-day session, and the legislative leadership hasn’t had one serious public discussion about funding PEIA for the 2017 plan year.”

Sword suggests lawmakers look to increasing dedicated revenues to fund the program, however, Republican leadership, including House Finance Chairman Del. Eric Nelson, has repeatedly said funding for PEIA is not an issue in the 2016 budget and promises the cuts would be addressed in the 2017 budget year.

Nelson says PEIA will be discussed in more depth near the end of this legislative session, once lawmakers have dealt with the 2016 budget gap.

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