West Virginia House Says 2 Percent Raises for Teachers Will Do

West Virginia Legislative Services Photo Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, speaks on the floor of the House of Delegates Tuesday at the Capitol in Charleston.

WHEELING — The West Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday cautiously approved raises for state police, teachers and school personnel, with many lawmakers saying the raises weren’t enough.

They said the raises are comparable to “handing out Christmas hams” to employees.

Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, was the only delegate to vote against Senate Bill 267, which passed 98-1.

“It fixes nothing,” Fluharty said. “I’m tired of watching our Legislature do nothing while it continues to be bought and sold by special interests. The bill was nothing more than a symbolic gesture, not substantive change. Our people deserve better.”

Under the measure, public school teachers would receive an across-the-board wage increase of $808 for fiscal year 2019 — calculated to be equal to 2 percent of the average teacher’s pay of $40,400. They would receive $404 — or an amount equal to a 1 percent — each of the following three years, totaling $2,020 over the four-year period.

A Senate-passed measure would give teachers the same overall amount over five years.

They would receive only a $404 raise in 2019.

Raises approved in the House for state police and public school personnel, meanwhile, would be for only two years.

State police would receive an $864 across-the-board salary increase for 2019, and $432 in 2020, equaling $1,296 over two years. The Senate legislation provides them $432 each year, for $864 over two years.

School service personnel would get $440 the first year, and $220 the second year for a total of $660. The Senate bill would give them $220 a year for 2019 and 2020.

The wage increases would be in addition to a 1-percent raise for all state employees already passed by the Legislature.

SB 267 now goes back to the Senate, where members will be asked to vote whether to accept the changes made in the House to increase the raises. If they vote “no,” the matter goes to conference committee for a resolution.

House Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said the raises would cost the state $24 million in fiscal year 2019, $36 million in 2020, $48 million in 2021 and $64 million in 2022, for a total of $172 million over the next four years.

Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, asked House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, whether the committee had determined a source for the extra funds.

Nelson told him the committee would look through the general fund budget to find savings, and that there were other pieces of legislation presently being considered by lawmakers that could influence budget numbers.

Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, asked House colleagues to join him in pledging to bring back the employee raise issue in the future if the state’s financial numbers continue to grow.

“It should be a priority for this body,” Nelson said.

Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, predicted the state’s teachers “will flood the halls of the State Capitol” in protest, and the Legislature will be forced to revisit the pay raise bill this session.