13 January 2010

No Clear Direction for OPEB Impasse as Session Starts

The Associated Press reports that "West Virginia's Legislature may start its regular session without a proposed solution to the ongoing dispute over public retiree costs."

AP explains that both a "stakeholder" group formed by Gov. Joe Manchin and a study committee assigned in the state Senate each has yet to finish its research into the "other post-employment benefits" or OPEB mess.

"These costs mostly reflect health benefits promised to retirees. The state estimates it faces a $7.8 billion funding gap," the article said. "Most of West Virginia's 55 county school boards have threatened to sue over the way the state bills them to pay down the unfunded liability."

State officials says the school boards issued the required 30-day advance notice of a lawsuit late last month, as promised.

During the week's interim meetings, lawmakers tossed around possible options for assuaging the boards and other government employers facing "annual required contributions" toward the OPEB funding shortfall. They include converting county school teachers into state employees, and declaring the entire unfunded liability an obligation of the state alone.

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