State Employees Are an Undervalued Asset
“Where do you stand on the PEIA situation?”
This question continues to be asked nearly every time I encounter one of our state’s public employees. I also continue to be asked that question by e-mail, mail and telephone calls from state employees. I recognize that the notification of planned increases by the West Virginia PEIA Finance Board to each of us participating in the benefits plan is disturbing. As an insured member myself, I get it.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is required by our state’s constitution to prepare a budget, as he has every year since his assumption of the office in 2010. As legislators, we receive the governor's budget that lays out where the collected revenue dollars for the upcoming fiscal year will be spent. Obviously the PEIA Finance Board, a function of the Department of Administration under the Governor’s responsibility, has failed its fiduciary responsibility, until now, to appropriately budget, plan, and advise the Governor and Legislature regarding the looming debacle and steps to avoid the calamity. PEIA’s notice to plan participants adversely affects each state employee financially and devalues their contribution.
As a member of the Senate's Finance Committee, I will aggressively review the governor’s budget proposal this year and begin formulating solutions endeavoring to meet deficiencies in the insuring program and meet other constitutional requirements without tax increases. I am not a fan of increasing taxes particularly from the perspective of this: Why should I increase the taxes on our 200,000 public employees, in addition to the others, to return only a portion to fund the program and avoid the “draconian” benefit cuts? Raising taxes is the easy way out.
As business leaders we must be fiscally responsible, which means dusting off the reports received over the last several years -- reports that have identified areas of waste and limited function – and using the recommendations contained therein to effect positive, necessary, efficient change in our state government's operation. Once we address those functional inefficiencies straining our state’s budget, we can then begin considering potential tax increases or other measures to cover deficiencies in this fund as well as other programs.
The state has a responsibility to each and every public employee; each are a great asset neglected for too long a time. I will continue working to find responsible, effective solutions to not only this problem, but to others I am, or to which I become, aware.
Senator Gregory L. Boso, P.E., represents the 11th Senatorial District of West Virginia – that includes Randolph, Upshur, Pendleton, Nicholas, Webster, Pocahontas and a portion of Grant counties – and serves on the following Senate Standing Committees: Vice Chair - Energy, Industry and Mining; Finance; Government Organization; Natural Resources; Confirmations; and, Enrolled Bills.