Second, the political class maintained its control by generously promising public employees much more than the poverty-stricken population can afford to pay.
As Fitch put it, "Despite substantial progress made, significant unfunded pension liabilities remain."
No kidding. Pension liabilities are still measured in the billions.
And beyond that lie what are delicately called "other post-employment benefits" - health care for retirees.
State Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, heads a working group tasked with addressing that problem. It has been quantified at $8 billion.
Some have contended that this is not a "real" liability, as the state is not legally obligated to fund retiree health care.
McCabe says it is a real liability, and said in a recent column that "we must address it now to protect our current and future employees."
What about taxpayers?
In the private sector, managers cut retiree health care benefits all the time.
But West Virginia's political class seems unable to imagine doing that in the public sector.
Perhaps that's why S&P and Fitch think the state's "other post-employment benefits" obligations are real, too.
Therefore, they are.
Nobody wants to hurt state employees. But if the state fails to trim a deficit that now stands at $8 billion, it will hurt the private-sector taxpayers who will have to make all that money.
They obviously still have a long way to go.
Maurice is editorial page editor of the Daily Mail. She may be reached at 304 348-4802 or ha...@dailymail.com.