BRADENTON, Fla.  - West Virginia lawmakers today are expected to begin a special legislative session to deal with appropriating state funds to help with the transfer of public school teachers and their retirement funds from the Teacher's Defined Contribution Retirement System into the state-run Teacher's Retirement System.

The official call and agenda for the special session was expected to be finalized late yesterday, said Lara Ramsburg, communications director for Gov. Joe Manchin.

Lawmakers are expected to be asked by Manchin to appropriate approximately $20 million to transfer 14,871 teachers from the Defined Contribution Plan to the state-run Teacher's Retirement System.

In addition to funding for the teachers' transfer, Manchin also is expected to ask lawmakers during the special session for a $5 million appropriation to assist public schools with rising fuel costs.

"There will be a special session because we have the two items ... that have to be dealt with and it is tentatively scheduled to start at 5 p.m. [today]," Ramsburg said.

During a special session in March, lawmakers approved HB 101, which authorized teachers to transfer to the state-run pension system. The legislation was in response to complaints from some teachers who realized poor results when investing in the Defined Contribution Plan. HB 101 specified dates for an election and required at least 65% of the members to vote to transfer.

From April 1 through May 12, the 18,990 actively contributing teachers in the Defined Contribution Plan voted on whether to transfer to the state-operated pension plan. More than 78% opted to transfer during the voting period, according to the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board.

In June 2007, the state sold $807 million of tobacco settlement bonds to help reduce the unfunded liability in the state-run teacher's pension program, which some analysts at the time had called the most underfunded in the nation. The bond proceeds and cash boosted the Teacher's Retirement System's funding level to 51% from 22%.

However, the state's combined pension funds are still estimated to have a $4 billion unfunded actuarial accrued liability.

West Virginia's general obligation bonds are rated AA-minus by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's and Aa3 by Moody's Investors Service.

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