Caroline MacGregor Published

Gov. Justice Signs State Budget, PEIA, Other Bills Into Law

Gov. Jim Justice sitting at his desk wearing a green tie in honor of St. Patrick’s Day as he signs into law the state’s budget bill HB 2024 on Friday, March 17, 2023.
Gov. Jim Justice on March 17, 2023.
WV Governor's Office

Gov. Jim Justice was joined by legislators Friday as he signed into law the state’s new budget and other important bills passed during the 2023 West Virginia Legislative session.

House Bill 2024 is the budget bill which ended up being a compromise between the House of Delegates and the Senate. It sets the general revenue budget at $4.874 billion for fiscal year 2024, beginning July 1. 

The bill includes a $2,300 annual pay raise for executive branch employees. It also includes money to shore up the state’s aging dams, as well as money to address deferred maintenance in higher education facilities and the state’s prisons and jails. 

In signing the bill, Justice pointed out what he considers are the bill’s merits.

“We got $10 million there just in case we get in trouble,” Justice said. “We’ve helped Communities in Schools, we put $40 million in the School Building Authority. We put $20 million to keep this nursing program that we’ve got going and is working like crazy,” he said. “We put $1.6 million into Jobs and Hope to help with these terrible drug problems. We put $10 million in a program and has been unbelievably successful, the EMS in recruitment of those people.” 

The governor said $67 million was taken from the budget surplus fund to promote tourism. 

“Think about what tourism is doing right now in West Virginia. It’s exploding,” Justice said. “Every dollar we spend on tourism literally over and over returns us instantaneous dollars.” 

To offset potential problems following the income tax cut, the budget also establishes a reserve fund. 

“We put $400 million into the Income Tax Reserve Fund just in case we get upside down and get in a bunch of trouble,” Justice said.  He added that he thought that was an unlikely scenario.

The governor also signed into law Senate Bill 268 which was a concerted effort between the House and Senate to rescue the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA). 

SB 268 requires a minimum 110 percent reimbursement of the Medicare rate for all providers. This is to compensate hospitals fairly for their services. In December, Wheeling Hospital said it would no longer accept PEIA because of low compensation rates.  

The new law includes a 25 percent increase in premiums for employees. Spouses who have insurance available through their own employers would have to pay an additional $147 a month to stay on the plan. Coverage would not be affected, including for out-of-state services, and no retirees would be affected. 

Before legislators reached agreement, the program had a projected $154 million deficit for fiscal year 2024.

“A permanent fix for something that we’ve started for a long time. Here’s your big bill, thank you,” Justice said.

The governor signed into law Senate Bill 423, which increases the salaries for certain state employees, including state police and certain personnel, public school teachers, and school service personnel.

“It passed both chambers unanimously,” Justice said. “And I just think it’s just terrific. Now what it’ll do in many situations that backstops the increase in premiums and everything to PEIA with anybody. And I think this is right. I think anybody whose pay is less than $133,000 a year, will end up with a pay raise and their PEIA coverage.” 

“This is the fourth pay raise: remember, way back when, when we did a five percent pay raise? It was the biggest pay raise percentage-wise in the history of the state,” Justice said. “Well, we’ve done four of them now and I hope to goodness before I’m gone, we’ll be able to at least do one more.” 

Wearing a green tie in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, which the governor admitted he almost forgot to don, Justice used a green ink pen to sign House Bill 3307 into law. 

The new bill establishes the West Virginia-Ireland Trade Commission. More than 15 percent of West Virginia’s population is of Irish descent. 

The bill aims to build firmer commercial links with Ireland through the advancement of bilateral trade and investment. The bill initiates joint action on policy issues of mutual interest and promotes business and academic exchanges between the two governments.

“This is one step forward to working with Ireland and, of all places, West Virginia,” Justice said. “This will allow us to drive more and more business and visitors back and forth between us. This is really, really good stuff.”