Governors’ Pay Raise Proposal Passes House

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice’s clean pay raise proposal passed the House of Delegates Friday with overwhelming support, though a vocal minority opposed the bill.

House Bill 2730, which provides for a 5 percent salary increase for teachers, school service personnel, and employees of the West Virginia State Police, passed the House 89-8 Friday afternoon.

The bill provides for a $2,120 raise for teachers, $1,150 raise for school service personnel and $2,370 for State Police. While pay raises for state employees paid from the general revenue fund are included in the governor’s fiscal 2020 budget, the salaries for teachers, school workers and troopers are set in code, requiring a separate bill.

A 5 percent pay raise proposal for teachers and school service personnel was included in a massive education omnibus bill from the Senate, but teachers’ unions went on strike for two days starting Tuesday over provisions in the bill to create public charter schools and education savings accounts.

The legislation died Tuesday when the House voted to indefinitely postpone action on the bill.

That same day, Justice held a press conference asking the Legislature to pass his clean pay raise bill.

Delegate Tom Bibby, R-Berkeley, questioned why the State Police pay raise was included in the same bill as teachers and school service personnel.

He supported the trooper pay raise, but said teachers and school service personnel who went on strike should not receive a raise.

“People said we were going to get a clean bill on the teachers’ pay school personnel,” Bibby said.

“Now I’m torn because we have a bill here that includes the State Police. I’m 110 percent behind the police. Unfortunately they’re stuck in a bill here where we’re going to give a pay raise to people who walked off the job.”

Bibby was one of the eight people to vote against the bill, along with: Jim Butler, R-Mason; Geoff Foster, R-Putnam; Eric Householder, R-Berkeley; Sharon Malcolm, R-Kanawha; Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock; S. Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley, and Terry Waxman, R-Harrison.

“I’ve heard from many teachers who said don’t vote for that pay raise because we need a choice in West Virginia, Waxman said. “I will not be voting for this bill, but it’s with a heavy heart because there is a lot of deserving people that deserve this money.”

Several delegates rose to support the bill as a mechanism to recruit new teachers to the state with better pay. Delegate Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, reminded lawmakers of a 2014 legislative promise to get the starting teacher salaries to $40,000 by 2019.

“We need to continue to attract and retain our teachers,” said Thompson, a teacher for the last seven years. “I’ve not only seen teachers leave the state because they can make better money. We’ve seen tenured teachers leave who have taught 10-15 years.”

Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said he would support the bill, but the former House Finance Committee chairman warned lawmakers that the recent budget surpluses allowing them to give the pay raises would not last forever.

“I just put that word of caution out for everybody,” Nelson said. “We’ve been benefited by the pipeline construction. That stops in a year. We’ve been benefited by the road development. That won’t go on forever. We have certain parts of our state that are seeing nice economic development growth, but we have many other areas who aren’t.”

The bill now goes to the state Senate, where support remains unclear. Senators have expressed support for the pay raise, but after the defeat of SB 451 some, such as Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, are rethinking their earlier support.

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