By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
March 8, 2023
Last week, I wrote at length about how politics has become a performance. Right on cue, our leaders proceeded to hold a balloon drop photo op to celebrate a tax cut and pay raise for public employees…while quietly giving themselves a much larger raise and increasing employee insurance rates to pay for it all. Let me help you break down the details.
PEIA. The Public Employee Insurance Association (PEIA) provides medical coverage for all public employees including state workers, educators, police, county employees, and more. Rates are about to increase. Significantly. Both the House and Senate approved a bill to raise rates by up to 26% this coming year, despite our enormous budget surplus.
TAX CUTS. In a move legislators and the governor say will offset those PEIA increases and utilize much of the surplus, the governor signed an $800+ million tax cut bill for West Virginians yesterday. A number of folks reached out for clarification on what the tax cut actually does, so here goes. It reduces income taxes by 21.25%, provides a tax credit on the amount you pay for your car taxes, gives small businesses (those with $1 million or less in equipment/inventory/machinery) a tax credit, and gives disabled veterans a bigger property tax exemption (if they are 90% or more disabled).
Yes, the car tax and machinery/inventory/equipment tax measures were all defeated on the ballot by voters this year. But our leaders found a way to work around the will of voters. They are providing tax credits on the amounts they simply wanted to eliminate. It will make getting the tax relief awfully complicated, but it is on the way.
One important note–if you are a person who normally pays your full vehicles property tax in September, don’t do that this coming year. Pay half in September and half in the spring. That way, your second payment can count towards your tax credit for next year, as the vehicle tax portion of the bill isn’t effective until next year.
PAY RAISES. Public employees will also receive a $2,300 pay raise. Will that and tax relief be enough to offset the 26% PEIA increase? It is unclear.
Legislators are poised to give themselves a 33% raise. The bill already passed the Senate with overwhelming support and now is up for a final vote in the House later this week. Currently, legislators make about $20,000 year plus some extra pay for expenses. If SB740 becomes law, it will raise their pay to around $30,000 per year plus raised extra expense pay.
While some legislators are now trying to pull the wool over your eyes by saying the Legislative Compensation Committee is enacting the pay raise, that is categorically false. Only the legislature can vote to change their own pay. The commission has recommended this raise, and the legislature can adopt it, scale it back, or reject it. They are quickly moving towards adopting it, giving themselves a 33% raise while giving public employees a 3-4% raise.
Last but not least, legislators are also moving to give the governor, attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state, auditor, and commissioner of agriculture a 20% raise.
Like I’ve said before, they are looking out for themselves, not for us.
DHHR SPLIT. Late last year, the state received a report from The McChrystal Group with recommended changes to make DHHR more effective and efficient. The report alone was $1 million. It addressed the big change legislators wanted to make–splitting up DHHR into smaller, separate agencies–by saying that was a bad idea. They said it was a waste of time, money, and resources that wouldn’t serve the people of West Virginia any better.
Our leaders not only spent $1 million getting that advice, but they are still proceeding to split DHHR into three separate agencies. The bill has already become law.
CHILD MARRIAGE. Current law allows 16-year olds (who are still otherwise considered minors) to marry in West Virginia. We have the highest rate of child marriage in the nation. The House passed a bill to end it, and it went to the Senate. I think the biggest surprise, besides folks not realizing child marriage was still legal in West Virginia up to this point, was the number of delegates who voted against ending the practice. Thirteen delegates voted no. Then to my shock, Senate Judiciary defeated the bill altogether. Minors will continue to be allowed to marry. It will be interesting to see these senators explain that to voters when they get back home.
Stay tuned over the next week for final updates on what did and did not pass. We will do our best to keep you updated with daily stories at www.TheRealWV.com.
That is the view from the back pew. May God bless you.