CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Finance Committee Chairman Eric Nelson says he didn’t want to wait later in the legislature session to let teachers and other state workers know the House is going to come through with the money to keep their health insurance plan the same for the next 17 months.

Eric Nelson

The committee originated a bill Wednesday morning that would transfer $29 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to the state Public Employees Insurance Agency’s trust fund to pay for the increasing cost of health insurance at no additional charge to state workers.

Nelson said he wanted to move as quickly as possible to send a message.

“This truly shows our intent to the public employees and to the (PEIA) board that we will be there for the funding right now,” Nelson said. “The other alternative would be that this be handled through the regular budget process but doing this right now as a supplemental gives assurance to the public that we mean business in addressing the situation.”

The 80/20 rule for PEIA funding would not apply with this transfer, PEIA Executive Director Ted Cheatham told the committee.

“It will have no affect on premium contributions at all,” Cheatham said.

Finance committee members Dels. Brent Boggs (D-Braxton) and Isaac Sponaugle both pointed out the $29 million was not a permanent fix for PEIA.

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton, 55)

“This will freeze it for right now. I don’t think it’s going to make people happy knowing long-term that it still isn’t fixed,” Sponaugle said.

Nelson agreed it was one-time money.

“But I think it’s dependent upon the (PEIA) board to come back to us and hopefully with interaction with the legislature for a plan that can be truly put into place going into the future,” Nelson said.

House Education Committee Chairman Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson) said a task force, including teacher group representatives, will soon be formed to work on a permanent fix.

“That will look at very closely our PEIA plan and come up with a consensus on how we move forward in a responsible manner,” he said.

The originating bill now goes to the full House floor for consideration.

The Rainy Day Fund currently has a combined balance of approximately $714 million.

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