West Virginia Governor Vows Door Knocking Campaign for Pension Bond Initiative

March 9, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin has signed into law a bill designating June 25 as the date of a statewide special election for voters to approve a $5.5 billion bond sale to finance pension shortfalls.

A Manchin  Web site statement said revenue from the bond sale would go to meeting unfunded liabilities in the state’s Teachers, Judges and State Police retirement systems. According to news reports, the state’s judicial pension plan has a $22 million gap between assets and promised benefits, while state troopers’ unfunded pension liability tops $344 million.

The plan that covers more than 45,000 active and retired teachers, meanwhile, faces a $5 billion shortfall. An Associated Press report said the West Virginia educators plan is considered the worst-funded state plan in the country.

“This is an opportunity for us to correct the sins of the past without costing the state’s taxpayers any additional money,” Manchin said in the statement. “Instead, passage of this amendment will result in the savings of hundreds of millions of dollars, paving the way at long last for economic stability and security for our children and grandchildren.”

The legislation allows the state to guarantee a fixed rate of payment of around $350 million annually to pay down the debt.  Under the current payment schedule, the state’s payments will balloon to $724 million in 2034, according to Manchin.

The governor told reporters later that he will “go door to door” this summer to encourage West Virginians to vote in favor of the bond sale. “We will have a good two months after the (legislative) session to really go out and make sure people understand,” Manchin said.