Members of the House of Delegates are still debating a bill that would take money from the Rainy Day Fund to balance the 2016 budget, but it’s a fight over PEIA, the public employee’s health insurance program, that’s stalling the crucial legislation.
Senate Bill 364 was requested by Governor Tomblin to help close a nearly $400 million budget shortfall for this year. It takes nearly $52 million from the Rainy Day fund to help close the gap.
But Democrats in the House tried to amend the bill Monday to take an additional $58 million from the state’s reserve fund to cover another shortfall in the public employee’s health insurance agency - one that will cause costs to increase for state employees and retirees.
“This is the first financial bill that’s come before this House," said Democratic Delegate Isaac Sponaugle of Pendleton County, "it’s an emergency situation. We are now on the twentieth day of legislative session; nearly one third through, and yet, we have yet to address the PEIA funding crisis in the state of West Virginia.”
The Democratic amendment to help fund PEIA was voted down. Many Republicans called it an irresponsible use of one time monies to fix a long term funding problem.
“We are all very concerned about the PEIA shortfall," said House Finance Chairman, Delegate Eric Nelson of Kanawha County, "It’s been projected that in fiscal year 2017, so that’s the year that starts July 1 and goes forward, it’s projected that there’s a shortfall of $120 million. There’s not been legislation that has come before any committees yet, but I guarantee you there will be legislation to address that particular shortfall...but we’re talking about using one time monies out of our savings account, our Rainy Day Fund, to fund an ongoing obligation that hits it for one year, but what about the future years?”
The bill to take money from the Rainy Day Fund will be up for a vote Tuesday in the House.