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W.Va. Gov. Justice declares ‘happy day’ with PEIA freeze, pending pay hike


Charleston Gazette-Mail

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice speaks about his plan to raise teachers pay by one percent each year over the next few years during a press conference Thursday where he was joined by Senate President Mitch Carmichael, left, and House Speaker Tim Armstead.
(Gazette-Mail photo by Chris Dorst)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday that West Virginia teachers, school service personnel and other state employees should consider it a “happy day,” with plans progressing to freeze pending Public Employees Insurance Agency health premiums for a year and to give fiscally prudent pay raises.

“I think the prudent thing and the smart money is to fix PEIA like we’ve done, and the smart money is to stay at 1-1-1-1-1,” Justice said at a news conference Thursday, referring to a proposal to give teachers five consecutive 1 percent annual pay raises.

Justice reiterated comments made at town hall meetings earlier in the week regarding his plan to ask the PEIA Finance Committee for a one-year moratorium on changes in premiums and benefits otherwise set to take effect on July 1.
That includes a provision that has been a lightning rod of controversy, to assess premiums based on total family income — a change that would mean large premium increases for many insurees with family or employee-and-spouse coverage.

Rolling back those rate hikes will leave about a $23 million hole in PEIA’s budget that the Legislature will have to fill this session, and Justice said a House proposal to give a 2 percent pay raise to teachers, school service personnel and other state employees this year instead of his proposed 1 percent increase would cost another $23 million.

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