Legislative Update: Feb. 10, 2012

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OPEB
   Years after OPEB was proclaimed to be the largest unfunded liability in the state, the all-inclusive OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) bill will soon become law. Once the bill is signed into law, SB 469 will:
--Dedicate $30 million annually into the Retiree Trust Fund, beginning when the old worker’s comp fund is paid in full, through 2037 or until the liability is paid in full, whichever is longer. AFT-WV has long advocated for a revenue stream for retirees and this provision (plus interest) will generate over $1 billion for retiree health care.
--Remove the OEB liability from the county boards of education for all employees funded through the school aid formula. The state will now report this liability on the books of the State Board of Education.
--Capture an additional $5 million annually and transfer it into a newly-created fund called “Post-July 1, 2010 Employee Trust Fund.” The fund will be an interest-bearing account designed to provide some level of benefit upon retirement to persons hired on or after July 1, 2010. The newly-created Select Committee on OPEB, along with the PEIA Director and PEIA Finance Board, will determine what benefits these individuals will receive.
Attempt to control health care costs with guidance for the PEIA Director and Finance Board to follow in an attempt to control costs. The PEIA Finance Board is now projecting medical inflation to be 6% and prescription drug inflation to be 10%. Frankly, these projections are not sustainable for the state nor PEIA participants. AFT-WV hopes this language will reduce these draconian projections.
   AFT-WV would like to thank Gov. Tomblin, Speaker Thompson and President Kessler, along with Senator Plymale and Delegate Varner, for their leadership on this issue. Additional thanks are extended to all senators and delegates who supported SB 469 on the floor.
     Note: For clarification purposes, the original plan presented to the PEIA Finance Board by the director in October 2011 would have capped retiree benefits at current levels and did NOT call for an annual increase or escalator. Joshua Sword, AFT-WV Political Director and PEIA Finance Board member, offered an amendment to provide for an increase or escalator to the capped amount. Fortunately, the board agreed with Sword and a 3% annual escalator was adopted prior to approval of the new plan.
Teacher Evaluations
   HB 4236 was discussed by the House Education Committee on Tuesday and then passed the same committee on Thursday. This bill is the Governor’s teacher evaluation proposal. AFT-WV leaders and activists have been participating in the teacher evaluation task force that has been meeting for over two years. The resulting pilot project from those discussions serves as the model for the evaluation tool proposed in this bill. We are hopeful of an end product that ultimately improves the practice of teaching, raises student achievement and is fair to teachers. HB 4236 now awaits action in the House Finance Committee.
   AFT-WV continues to pursue our legislative priorities, including a salary increase for education employees (view our Legislative Agenda at www.aftwv.org) and lobby for the issues that matter most to our members. Now that the OPEB issue is resolved, we hope we will be able to engage legislative leaders in meaningful discussion about salaries. AFT-WV will keep you updated on the latest legislative news.