WSAZ - Blogs - At the Capitol

Feb 1, 2012- W.Va. Senate Passes OPEB Bill

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

The Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would relieve county schools of much of the other post-employment benefit, or OPEB costs.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP & WSAZ) - West Virginia is moving toward shifting most of the burden from retiree health costs carried by county school boards.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would relieve county schools of much of these other post-employment benefit, or OPEB costs.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed the measure. It also targets a $5 billion funding shortfall from these costs.  

The bill would dedicate $35 million in annual personal income tax revenues to close that funding gap by 2036.

County schools have struggled with OPEB liabilities. Under the bill, they would no longer have to account for costs from teachers and other personnel paid through the state school aid formula.

Those teachers and staff would not become employees of the state. The shifted costs also wouldn't count as a state liability.

Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso had this to say after the bill passed.

We previewed the challenges lawmakers face in paying down this debt before the legislative session began. You may remember last year the state's Public Employees Insurance Agency finance board made cuts affecting things like premiums and co-pays. It cut the projected debt from $10 billion to $5 billion.

The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy released an analysis ahead of the 2010 legislative session, saying the debt was not the "crisis" some lawmakers made it out to be.

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