Justice confirms teacher insurance terms won't change soon

Wyoming East High School science teacher Brittany Bauer, center, and Wyoming East band and choir teacher Sam Dobson, right, hold signs at a rally Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, at the state Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. Hundreds of teachers from at least three counties held a one-day walkout to rally for pay raises and better health benefits. (AP Photo/John Raby)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia teachers and other public employees will see their health insurance coverage unchanged for the next 17 months with his administration finding another $29 million to support the cost, according to Gov Jim Justice.
Flanked by House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Mitch Carmichael, Justice spoke at a Capitol appearance Thursday in which he promised to use the coming months to seek ways to support future costs.
“It’ll give us time to see where we stand and find a solution for a permanent fix,” Justice said. “And the other flip side is it will give you some certainty in your lives that you’re not just going to keep getting tagged and tagged and tagged.”
Teachers have protested low pay, small proposed raises and insurance rate hikes expected to begin July 1.
Justice said it’s prudent right now to stay with his proposal to guarantee teachers 1 percent raises each of the next five years, more later if the state economy keeps improving as he anticipates.
“I give you my solemn promise, solemn promise … that we’ll double right back and do even more once we know that the numbers really do work,” Justice said. “And I believe with all in me they’re going to work.”
The Senate last week approved the five-year raises. The House Finance Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation that would give the teachers 2 percent raises the first year, followed by 1 percent the next three years.
“We’re not that far apart,” Armstead said. “We believe we can sustain that.”
Carmichael said the governor articulated well the need to take a fiscally conservative approach but the Senate will evaluate the proposals the House brings forward.