Don’t Be Used By the Politicians

Public school employees in West Virginia should be outraged, not to mention suspicious, that their record-length work stoppage is being used by some for purely political reasons.

Democrats in the Legislature have wasted no opportunity to blame the core problems that caused the strike — pay and health insurance premiums — on Republicans.

It just won’t pass the truth test.

Republicans have held control of the state Legislature for just three years. During the preceding 83 years, Democrats held solid majorities in both the state Senate and the House of Delegates.

Insurance premiums through the state Public Employees Insurance Agency were a key complaint of striking school employees. “Fix PEIA” was the battle cry for many, who considered that issue more important than salaries.

Republican lawmakers have agreed to take $29 million from the Rainy Day Fund to hold PEIA premiums at current levels at least through July 2019. Gov. Jim Justice has appointed a task force to look are long-term solutions to the ever-increasing costs of health insurance through the PEIA.

On Tuesday afternoon, just after Justice signed a bill providing a 5 percent pay raise for state workers, two Democrat legislators went into their political act.

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, warned the PEIA dilemma is “not going to get fixed with the makeup of this current Legislature.”

State Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, agreed, chiming in that strikers should “remember in November.”

Really, now. Sponaugle, Romano and others attempting to use the strike to return Democrats to control of the Legislature are insulting the strikers’ intelligence.

Where were Democrat lawmakers between 1971, when the PEIA was established, and 2015, when they lost power? Health insurance premiums have been climbing steadily for years. Benefits cuts were in place long before any GOP lawmaker had any power to act on the matter.

Yet Democrat leaders think this is their big opportunity to mobilize voters.

State employees worried about the PEIA should be very, very suspicious of a party whose politicians had the power to do something for many years — but failed miserably. `