CHARLESTON, W.Va. State senator Mike Caputo, D. Marion, 13, has proposed a measure he believes could solve the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) woes, but the state would first have to legalize recreational marijuana use. Caputo, who is not running for reelection, is the sole sponsor of Senate Bill 585.

“Anytime I go into a forum with public employees, they always ask how we’re going to help them with their PEIA costs,” Caputo said. “This is not political for me; I’m not running again, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

If passed, SB 585 would only become law if the recreational use of marijuana is approved either by lawmakers or as a ballot measure by voters statewide.

“If the state ever sees fit to legalize, I think 50 percent should go to the general fund to help the entire state of West Virginia,” Caputo said. “And 50 percent should be directed to help our state employees.”

Caputo said many have told him the raises offered by the governor in many cases don’t cover the plan increases, and he said that’s really not the way to correct the ongoing problem. A PEIA permanent fix would take a continuing problem off the table and possibly create a retention incentive.

“I don’t think the answer is to give someone a pay raise and then take maybe that plus out of their paycheck to pay for it,” Caputo said. “The employee gets nowhere fast in that scenario, and plus, the employee has to pay more tax on that as income.”

State workers and officials go through the PEIA crisis about every other year, and Caputo said this is a way to stop that cycle. He said no other lawmaker is proposing any kind of fix for the plan, and this is his attempt to help state workers.

“Health care costs are going to continue to soar; we certainly know that,” Caputo said. “I’m just looking for some creative ways to try to help the people who have served the state of West Virginia.”

Caputo said he would like to see the recreational marijuana issue on the ballot in the future.

“Let’s just lay it out there on a ballot and see what the people of West Virginia want to do about that,” Caputo said. “I am all for that. I feel confident it would pass, and if it didn’t pass, I would respect the decision of a majority of West Virginians.”