By March 31, 2017 Read More →

Legislature sweeping more revenue accounts

By RUSTY MARKS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Legislature continues to sweep state revenue accounts looking for money to help plug an estimated $450 million deficit in the upcoming state budget.

On Thursday, March 30, the House of Delegates approved Senate Bill 362, which would transfer into the general revenue fund 75 percent of funds set aside to retire the state’s old Workers’ Compensation debt. The debt was left from before Workers’ Compensation was privatized under former Gov. Joe Manchin in 2005.

House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said raiding the account would provide about $34 million to help plug the hole in the budget. About $12 million would still go toward retiring the debt, Nelson said.

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, objected to the transfer, arguing that the Legislature raided the Workers’ Compensation debt repayment fund the previous year to help balance the budget. Sponaugle said the Workers’ Compensation debt would never be paid off if lawmakers keep raiding the fund.

The bill passed by a vote of 72-27.

Wednesday was the last day members of one chamber of the Legislature could pass legislation in time for it to be considered by the other chamber before the end of the 60-day regular legislative session. The House of Delegates now will only be considering bills that originated in the Senate for the rest of the session.

Earlier in the day, the House Judiciary Committee hosted a public hearing on Senate Bill 239, which would prohibit employers from withholding money from an employee’s paycheck for political purposes without written permission, including portions of union dues. The bill also would require employees to fill out a form every year authorizing any payroll deductions.

Twelve people signed up to talk about the proposed legislation. Representatives from several labor or service organizations, including the West Virginia Education Association, American Federation of Teachers and West Virginia Troopers’ Association, spoke against the bill, calling it a “solution in search of a problem.”

Labor representatives said unions already are prohibited from using a worker’s union dues for political reasons without the worker’s permission, and others said the annual forms would require more paperwork for employers.

Jason Huffman, state director for the conservative organization Americans For Prosperity, said the legislation was needed because some employers divert employee union dues for political purposes without permission from the employees.

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