March 01, 2014

A good kind of zombie

The WV legislature has a week to go, and it promises to be quite a week. One pleasant surprise this time around is the emergence of what I thought was a long-dead bill back into the game.

For several years, I worked with friends at the WV Center on Budget and Policy et al to generate interest in  voluntary employee retirement accounts (VERA) for workers who don't have employer provided pensions. These would involve payroll deductions into an account managed by the WV Treasurer's Office, which already does something similar with college savings. Workers could then build assets for retirement and would keep the account if they moved from job to job.

After a while, we started calling it Dear Old Aunt Vera. We seemed to generate a little bit of traction several years back, but then it seemed to fizzle out.

This year, however, Aunt Vera came back from the dead. The state AARP and their allies managed to move a VERA bill through the WV House of Delegates. Yesterday, it cleared the Pensions Committee in the state Senate. Next stop is Finance, which is often where good bills go to die.

Although such a program would be a win all the way around, several business groups oppose the measure, claiming it would put the government in competition with private business. You could smell the money in the committee meeting. Their claims, however, are bogus. If financial businesses were really filling that niche, half our workers wouldn't be without any kind of retirement savings.

Secondly, and snarkily, if government is as inefficient and incapable of doing anything, what are these guys so scared of?

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