West Virginia Mulls State Retirement Plan for Small Businesses

The West Virginia Senate's Pensions Committee is discussing a plan to have the state set up retirement accounts for employees of small businesses.

A report on the West Virginia Public Broadcasting System’s Web site said Senate Bill 437 would allow the state to set up Voluntary Employee Retirement Accounts (VERAs) to give workers without an employer-sponsored retirement plan a way to automatically deduct money from their paychecks. The program would be operated by the state treasurer’s office, and would cost $1 million initially, but the costs would be recouped by participation fees.

Administration of the program would be contracted out to private businesses.The news report pointed out that workers without employer-sponsored plans could set up individual retirement accounts (IRAs) on their own, but they aren’t doing that. Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, told the PBS that half of West Virginia’s workers don’t have any retirement savings.

While most committee members were in favor of the bill, others expressed concern that it could cost taxpayers dollars and place a burden on the state. “I just don’t think that the state of West Virginia should be involved in providing retirement plans for employees that don’t work for the state,” said state Senator Michael Oliverio, according to the news report.

The Treasurer’s Office already runs the state’s 457 plan.