West Virginia legislature tackles pensions
By Phil Sletten
CHARLESTON, West Virginia: The West Virginia State Legislature is revisiting the state's pension plan with an eye on making cuts to future spending obligations. The state estimates that, across all five pension plans run by the state, the total shortfall between assets on hand and obligations would be $5.6 billion under current law.
The plan for teachers accounts for the largest portion of the deficit, totaling a $4.3 billion cost with 31,000 retirees and almost 36,000 active employees. The state plans for police officers and the judiciary have already been split into tiers with different levels of benefits. Particularly, the judicial plan is well-funded by the state, and currently has a $29 million projected surplus. West Virginia does not bargain with state worker unions, or recognize union entities representing public workers.
A joint committee of the West Virginia House of Delegates and the West Virginia State Senate is exploring options to increase public employee contributions to pension funds. Specifically, the current proposals would have employees in its main pension fund contribute 6 percent of their pay to the fund rather than the present-day 4.5 percent rate. The plans for both mainline public employees and teachers would also see a reduction in benefits resulting from unused sick days, and the retirement age would be raised from 60 to 62 years.
Nationwide, state and local pension funds lost approximately $672 billion on the stock market in 2008 and 2009.