The WVCBP covered a wide range of topics this year, from tax and budget policy, to health care policy, to criminal legal reform policy, and more. With 2023 just around the corner, we wanted to share the list of our most read publications from 2022. Here’s your WVCBP Wrapped:
1. Five Ways to Use West Virginia’s Revenue Surplus to Help Families and Workers:The FY 22 revenue surplus was largely a mirage built on low revenue estimates, unexpectedly high energy prices, and unprecedented amounts of federal aid, but it did present an opportunity to make much-needed investments and address longstanding needs.
2. Abortion Restrictions and Bans Disproportionately Harm Low-income West Virginians: This year, West Virginia adopted one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. We discussed how such bans disproportionately harm low-income people, and how the state’s current lack of family and economic supports exacerbates that harm.
3. Fiscal Year 2023 West Virginia Budget Recap: The FY 2023 base budget remained flat once again. It relied heavily on appropriations from the FY 2022 revenue surplus and a dramatic increase in temporary pandemic-related federal funding. As pandemic aid ends, flat budgets will be difficult to maintain.
4. Counsel at First Appearance Can Protect Liberty and Reduce Jail Costs: West Virginia jails are dangerously overcrowded due to the state’s overreliance on pre-trial detention. We explained how implementation of a policy known as “Counsel at First Appearance” can effectively reduce rates of unnecessary pretrial incarceration.
The 2022 legislative session was largely a missed opportunity when it came to public health and the social safety net. We recapped the good and bad health- and safety net-related legislation that passed and failed this year.
6. Nothing New About Governor Justice’s Special Session Income Tax Cut Plan: This summer, Gov. Justice proposed yet another personal income tax cut plan. Like previous failed attempts to cut the PIT, the plan would give the bulk of the tax cut to the wealthiest West Virginians while depriving the state of resources to address real needs.
7. West Virginia’s Labor Force Statistics are Back to Normal. So Why are There Still Missing Workers?: This spring, despite record-low unemployment rates and a fully recovered labor force participation rate, West Virginia was still down 24,000 jobs from its pre-pandemic level. The main explanation for this discrepancy is that West Virginia continues to experience population loss.
8. Will Child Care Investments that Helped Families and Providers Through the Pandemic Disappear?: West Virginia is an outlier when it comes to policies that support working families. An influx of relief funding allowed our child care infrastructure to remain intact during the pandemic. We wrote about the consequences of those investments disappearing.
9. In Harm’s Way: The True Costs of Pretrial Detention in West Virginia: The financial impacts of incarceration are discussed regularly, but too often, we fail to keep at the forefront the human toll of our country’s incarceration crisis. We wrote about just one man’s experience with pretrial detention, and what it cost him.
10. Simplifying Medicaid Processes Can Increase Efficiency and Improve the User Experience: Last but not least, we conducted a listening project this year in partnership with West Virginians for Affordable Health Care to identify patterns critical to understanding the role of Medicaid in West Virginia, and share policy recommendations on how the program can better serve enrollees.
West Virginia’s Public Employees Insurance system (PEIA) will soon face a $376 million dollar shortfall due to years of state neglect. Lawmakers have indicated they plan to tackle the shortfall this legislative session. Our new blog post explores the options (some preferable to others) that may be under consideration.
According to the latest projections, PEIA costs for the state will dramatically increase over the next five years. Rather than being a sign that PEIA itself is unsustainable, the growing costs are a result of years of flat budgets that have failed to keep up with annual medical inflation. In FY 2025, PEIA is projected to face a $204 million shortfall, followed by a $283.5 million shortfall in FY 2026, and a $376.5 million shortfall in FY 2027.
The options (again, some preferable to others) that have been suggested in recent years by policymakers and advocates to address the long-term sustainability of PEIA include:
– increasing state budget appropriations
– increasing premiums
– reducing benefits
– privatizing PEIA
Addressing PEIA’s solvency must be a priority for legislators in the upcoming legislative session. West Virginians and policymakers cannot afford to keep punting this decision down the road, thereby creating an even larger cliff. The solution should ensure that the state not make benefits less generous for current or prospective employees and not enact policies that raise costs on workers and families. Right now, the state is enjoying revenue surpluses, which are in some part due to four years of flat budgets that did not keep up with the growing costs of goods and services or the needs of our state’s people. Lawmakers can invest some of the surplus revenue in ensuring that our state’s public employee insurance system remains strong for the future.
Read Sean’s full blog post.
We often talk about the financial costs of mass incarceration, but it’s imperative that we never lose sight of the human toll. This holiday season, we’re keeping in mind the 4,767 incarcerated West Virginians who will have little to no access to their loved ones.
Incarceration is a traumatic and dehumanizing experience for those inside, and sentences are not served by incarcerated people alone. Children are especially harmed when a parent goes to jail or prison. Considered an adverse childhood experience by the CDC, having a parent behind bars is linked to illnesses like asthma, anxiety, depression, and acting out; economic hardship; and poorer physical and mental health in adulthood. Notably, this experience is not rare in the Mountain State. Approximately 10 percent of West Virginia kids have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their childhood.
Before the COVID-19 state of emergency, visits with incarcerated loved ones could last for an entire Saturday or Sunday. Now, visits last no more than 60 minutes. Before the state of emergency, prisons allowed limited displays of affection. Now, there is no physical contact allowed. Before the state of emergency, people incarcerated at Mt. Olive had 15 hours every month to visit with loved ones, and the chance to earn five additional hours with good behavior. Now, they have a one-hour visit per month.
Policies this cruel have costs. Facilities in other states that eliminated visitation have experienced more chaos: more disciplinary infractions, increased contraband, and more assaults on staff and other residents. Conversely, visitation reduces misconduct. The benefits continue after a person’s release. A study of people released from Florida prisons found that “any visitation and more frequent visitation were both associated with a lower likelihood of recidivism.”
Prisons hurt people. Visitation lessens that harm – for incarcerated people, for their families, and for the people who work in corrections.
West Virginia is currently experiencing a staffing crisis amongst its prisons and jails, making conditions less safe for all. If the state cares about retaining staff, it will take bold action to not only return to pre-pandemic visitation policies, but to make them even stronger. This policy change would cost next to nothing for the state. For incarcerated people–like Terrick, who generously shared his experiences and expertise with us for this piece–and their loved ones, it would mean the world.
Read Sara’s full blog post.
In West Virginia, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are critical health programs for low- and moderate-income families and kids. Before the pandemic, about four in nine children were covered through these programs, and this robust enrollment contributes to West Virginia covering 97 percent of kids with health coverage.
Since the start of the pandemic, Medicaid has had a continuous coverage requirement in place to make sure West Virginia families remain healthy and safe through health and economic ups and downs. Once the COVID-19-related public health emergency (PHE) expires in 2023, and the continuous coverage requirement ends, tens of thousands of West Virginians risk losing coverage – some who are now eligible for other health coverage and others who face disenrollment due to paperwork barriers even though they are still eligible. Children are at particular risk of losing coverage in 2023. Because they make up nearly 40 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries in the Mountain State, coverage losses will disproportionately impact children.
Policymakers and advocates can ensure that no child or family loses health coverage altogether by smoothing transitions to other coverage for those who will no longer be eligible for Medicaid and reducing bureaucratic barriers for those still eligible.
As the 2023 legislative session approach, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy staff would like to invite you to join us at our 10th annual Budget Breakfast, taking place on January 20, 2023.
Each year, the WVCBP holds this event to provide analysis of the Governor’s proposed budget. You’ll hear from our executive director, Kelly Allen, our senior policy analyst, Sean O’Leary, and our chosen keynote speaker, to be announced closer to the event.
Please find further event details below. You can register for the event here.
WHAT: WVCBP’s 10th Annual Budget Breakfast
WHEN: January 20, 2023. Breakfast will be available starting at 7:30am. The WVCBP’s analysis of the Governor’s 2024 proposed budget will begin at 8am, followed by keynote speaker presentation and time for Q&A.
WHERE: Charleston Marriott Town Center (200 Lee Street East, Charleston, WV 25301)
PLEASE NOTE: The cost of a single standard ticket is $50, but if you take advantage of our Early Bird Special (available to all who register by 12/31/22), you will receive $10 off.
We appreciate your ongoing support of the WVCBP and we hope you can join us at next year’s event!
The WVCBP’s Elevating the Medicaid Enrollment Experience (EMEE) Voices Project seeks to collect stories from West Virginians who have struggled to access Medicaid across the state. Being conducted in partnership with West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, EMEE Voices will gather insight to inform which Medicaid barriers are most pertinent to West Virginians, specifically people of color.
Do you have a Medicaid experience to share? We’d appreciate your insight. Just fill out the contact form on this webpage and we’ll reach out to you soon. We look forward to learning from you!
You can watch WVCBP’s health policy analyst Rhonda Rogombé and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care’s Mariah Plante further break down the project and its goals in this FB Live.
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