As we wrap up another year, we wanted to share some highlights of 2023 and look ahead to 2024. Now is a great time to renew your membership and/or make an end of year donation at www.wvcag.org! Thank you again for your support!
The 2023 legislative session was a dumpster fire, as the Republican supermajority continued to advance their agenda of less government support for those who really need it and more handouts to big business. Marshall University got $45 million for a Cyber Security program but WVU’s $45 million deficit didn’t get a penny. The Public Employees Insurance Agency, which manages health insurance for government workers in WV, soaked state employees and teachers with significant premium increases, while giving wealthy West Virginians the biggest personal income tax cut in the state’s history. See the trend?
Our Medicaid Bridge bill passed the House but big insurance killed it in the Senate. However, In January, insulin co-pays will be capped at $35/month as a result of the 2023 bill we helped pass – one of the few ‘wins’ for our side.
Medicaid is now running a $100 million dollar deficit due to inadequate funding. There are several causes for this shortfall, but the main ones are, five years of flatline state budgets, and the end of federal COVID relief funds. This coming session, the legislature will have to backfill Medicaid or our state’s healthcare economy will suffer. WV would lose four times that $100 million amount due to the 3 to 1 federal Medicaid match. Rural hospitals and clinics may close and over 5,000 jobs could be lost!
The income tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy mean the state will have a harder time finding the funds needed to keep Medicaid solvent, and address the many other crisis the state is facing such as the ongoing state of emergency in our prisons where the National Guard continues to fill in gaps in staffing because we don’t pay correctional officers enough; and the more than 6,000 children in the foster care who are not adequately supported as a result of the same low-pay/high stress issues for employees in the child welfare system. Higher education has been underfunded for over a decade now resulting in staff reductions and program changes at many of the state’s colleges and universities, but it’s legal now to carry guns on campus.
Bottom line: the 2024 legislative session will also be a challenge. As 2023 comes to a close, we’re gearing up for the January 10th opening of the 2024 legislative session, the last one with Jim Justice as our part-time governor. With aspirations to represent West Virginia in the US Senate, watch for him to use his ‘last hurrah’ at the legislative session to promote his campaign. Who knows how this will play out?
Inside the ‘rooms where it happens’ we’ll be promoting community solar and at the same time fighting to protect net metering. Efforts to ‘water down’ the Aboveground Storage Tank Act that provides standards and oversight to prevent releases into our water supplies has become an almost annual fight in the halls of the Capitol, as have attempts to undermine vital safety net programs such as SNAP benefits and Medicaid.
Your role as citizen advocates is essential in the fight for a stronger democracy, a sustainable future, and quality, affordable healthcare for all, as we work to both advance needed reforms and play defense on these and other fronts. Here are some ways you can help:
- Attend upcoming special virtual and in-person events prior to and during the session, make calls to your legislators on the issues you care about, and watch for our weekly updates to keep informed.
- Renew your membership and if possible, kick in a little extra so we’ll be better positioned to continue to fight in the year ahead — doing the work needed to make positive change in our state. Go to www.wvcag.org and click on DONATE.
As someone who cares about the future of West Virginia and our communities, this is the perfect time to contribute to support our important work and help us make an even bigger difference in people’s lives. We can’t do it without YOU!
The WV Citizen Action staff and board thank you in advance for your generosity.