UPDATE: Justice releases letter to all state employees

Photo David Mark / Pixabay

Governor Justice has released a letter to all state employees about pay raise and the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

In the letter, Justice talks about the decisions announced Tuesday to increase pay and create a task force to address PEIA concerns. Justice says he has signed an executive order to create that task force.

You can read the full letter below.

To All State Employees:

The Compensation Package that I have put forth will move the state significantly forward with hope for more in the years to come.

Dale Lee and David Haney at the WVEA, Christine Campbell and Bob Brown from the AFT and Joe White, from the School Service Personnel, and myself worked diligently to pull off an incredible package for the state workers of West Virginia. This happened as a result of many of the things I heard from the people that came out to the Town Hall meetings on Monday.

But most of all a little boy that had a lot of wisdom, named Gideon. Gideon reinforced a philosophy of treating education as an investment and as an economic driver. This is the way we ought to look at education. I’ve said this many, many times that we all need to look at education this way.

Input has also been provided from many good legislators. Our Legislature has worked very hard as well to help us achieve goodness for education and all of our state workers. Again, it was my promise to the union representatives that in the years to come we will continue to revisit pay raises.

I have issued an Executive Order today creating a special Task Force, that will include Educators and nothing but West Virginians. That Task Force is being formed right now and will be appointed by the end of the week to address and explore all avenues that will lead to a permanent fix for PEIA. It is important that everyone understand that identifying all of the issues in our healthcare program and finding a solution takes time. A cure won’t come in 30 minutes, but I can promise you this Task Force will begin its work immediately.

While I have placed a moratorium on PEIA for 16 months, finding a solution to this problem needs to be accomplished in a much, much shorter period of time.

There are several possibilities that will be looked at for the revenue we need to solve the PEIA issues once and for all. The possibilities of additional severance taxes on oil and gas, gaming revenue from sports betting, tax dollars being generated from our roads projects, continuing growth in our economy and the possibility of putting the insurance out for competitive bids are just a few; everything is going to be looked at.

I’ve believed from day one that education should be our centerpiece, and I continue to follow that same philosophy today.

Jim Justice
Governor of West Virginia

Harrison County Schools are closed Thursday as well.

Original Story
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine released the following statement Wednesday afternoon, saying he expects all public schools in the state to be in session Thursday:

“My expectation is that all public schools in West Virginia will be in session on Thursday, March 1, 2018.”

However, both Gilmer and Mingo Counties had already closed school for Thursday. Barbour and Wirt Counties are on a 2-hour delay.

Teachers and school personnel had mixed reactions after Governor Jim Justice announced a pay raise Tuesday, but not a "fix" to the Public Employees Insurance Agency. In a press conference, Justice said there would be task force created to work on PEIA and address concerns about the plan.

While Justice called Wednesday a "cool-off" day, some teachers and personnel still rallied.

On Wednesday morning, the state House of Delegates communications director told sister station WSAZ that they were awaiting more information before they could move forward with passing the 5% pay raise.

The governor has upped revenue estimates for next fiscal year by $4.4 million

Union leaders were meeting with the governor's office again Wednesday afternoon regarding the statewide strike.

Stay with 5 News for the latest.