(01/11/2006)
WV State lawmakers may go after Wal-Mart over the health care coverage it offers to its more than 12,000 workers in the Mountain State.

WalMart is now the state's largest employer.

A bill could be introduced that would mandate businesses that have more than 10,000 workers to pay 8 percent of their payroll dollars to health care coverage for their workers.

If the company fails to comply, they would have to pay a fee to the state to make up the difference.

The so-called Wal-Mart bill is being considered in 31 states and has already passed in maryland.

Many of WalMart's workers can't afford the company's health care plans, so many of them are being covered by state health insurance programs, draining state budgets.

Cabell County Senator Evan Jenkins says he is very frustrated with recent actions by the large retailer in his home county. Jenkins alleges Wal-Mart went out of its way to build two new superstores outside of nearby municipalities so the company wouldn't have to pay certain taxes and fees.

Jenkins says it's a huge financial burden on the state and health care providers. He says Wal-Mart should pay their fair share.

Wal-Mart, like many employers nationwide, says they cannot afford the high cost of health insurance, which is generally beyond the means of working families.

West Virginia Retailers Association President Bridgett Lambert says Wal-Mart collects $112 million a year in sales tax for the state of West Virginia. She calls the bill "unfriendly" and says it would create a "competitive disadvantage" for West Virginia as it tries to recruit other businesses.

Lambert told MetroNews that she doesn't know where Governor Joe Manchin is on the issue, but it would "compromise" his Open for Business slogan.


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