CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin delivered the annual State of the State address Wednesday night at the Capitol, putting the best face possible on West Virginia’s challenging financial condition.

“This is a year of tough financial choices for our state,” Tomblin said. “Our budget is strained.”

But the governor, claiming that raising teacher salaries is a priority, included in his budget a modest 2-percent raise for school teachers and service workers, along with a $504 raise for state employees. Beyond that, the budget either holds the line or cuts spending in state government.

Full text of Tomblin’s speech.

It’s the first across-the-board raise for teachers in three years, although they receive small annual increases based on their years of service.

“We must invest in our future—sow the seeds for tomorrow—and invest in our children and those called to public service,” Tomblin told a joint session of the House of Delegates and the Senate.

The governor’s financial team had to use a creative combination of cuts and one-time dollars, including a dip into the state’s Rainy Day fund, to fill a $265 million projected gap and balance the $4.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2015.

State Tax and Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss called the budget “austere” during a budget briefing earlier in the day.

“The next couple of years going forward are going to be tight,” said Kiss, who added that the state isn’t projecting budget surpluses until 2018 and 2019.

The increasing costs of social service programs are causing the biggest challenges in the budget.

Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor that is funded with state and federal dollars, will cost the state nearly $663 million next year, an increase of $87 million. All of social service spending is increasing $127 million to $1.2 billion. Officials pointed out the rise in Medicaid spending is not linked to Obamacare, which calls for the federal government to, in the near term, pay the entire cost of additional Medicaid patients.

The administration covers the increases, in part, by taking $84 million out of the Rainy Day fund. It’s the first time the state has used any of the reserve fund, which contains $920 million, to pay for ongoing expenses.

Kiss, a former House Speaker and Finance Chair, said leaders reluctantly opened the fund to balance the budget, even though they fear future administrations and legislatures could be tempted to use it more. “It could be a slippery slope,” Kiss said.

The governor proposes sweeping various state accounts for more than $60 million and reducing state spending by $70 million to cover most of the rest of the shortfall. Another $70 million in savings comes from budget cuts.

The budget reduces spending in state agencies-excluding Medicaid, public education, corrections and other essential services-by $70 million. Most remaining state agencies will see cuts of 7.5 percent. Higher education will be cut by 3.75 percent.

The tight budget is a reflection not only of the higher costs for Medicaid and the $41 million price tag of the teacher pay raise, but also the continued struggles of coal. The state’s leading industry has seen a drop in demand and price as utilities have turned more to natural gas. Additionally, mining exports have declined.

Still, state budget officials point to some optimistic signs. Payroll employment has reached a new high of 775,000 and is growing and real GDP growth was the eighth-highest in the nation between 2007 and 2012.

Highlights/notes from the speech:

—Tomblin carried a gardening theme throughout his speech, saying “Governing, like planting, takes planning, patience and foresight. We will cultivate a better future for all West Virginians,” he said.

—He said the cracker plant planned for Wood County could mean 10,000 construction jobs.

—He called on the state Board of Education to implement an A-through-F grading system for schools. “This rating system will provide a better indicator of school wide achievement,” Tomblin said.

—He introduced Marshall football coach Doc Holliday and congratulated him on the Military Bowl victory.

—Tomblin said he’s learned “how incredibly important it is to to be a good steward of the people’s money.”

—He encouraged young West Virginians to “stay in school, stay off drugs, apply yourself and find your passion. The jobs will be here for you.”  He also invited “those who have left the Mountain State (to) come home … to take advantage of the growing opportunities we are creating for you.”

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Comments

  • Katrina Szilaj

    With WV's education system ranking 47th (or 4th worst) in the nation for the second straight year, explain to me why they get a larger pay raise than state workers who work 5 days a week all year long? This is just not fair. State workers often risk their lives daily for low pay, yet never get the pay raises like teachers do. I wish our Governor appreciated state workers as much as he does teachers.

  • wv roads

    Is this another "one time non base building salary enhancement" for public employees? The last "raise" we received was the same thing. You get $500 (before taxes). If you made $20,000 a year in 2011, you still make $20,000 a year in 2014. It doesn't help that every media outlet calls it a raise for public workers. It is not a raise. It does not raise your base salary. This is nothing more than "hush" money to try and quell the slow burning rage known as state employees... It is stunning that to me that state workers have not walked off the job. You have a chance on President's day to have your voice heard in Charleston. Show up at the Capital and let them know enough is enough!

  • Aaron

    Tomblin said he’s learned “how incredibly important it is to to be a good steward of the people’s money.”


    Wait, what. He was in the Senate for 37 years including numerous as the President of the Senate. Perhaps if he had known how to be a good steward while he was in the Senate, our financial affairs might be on more solid ground.

  • WVWorker

    Why are they always comparing teacher salaries to teachers in other states, why don't they take a hard look, or even a quick glance, at how our students compare to students in other states. WV spends more per pupil than 90% of the other states on education and a lot of our high school students can't read on a third grade level. I think we should be getting more for the money we are spending now instead of rewarding the same incompetent teachers for poor results.
    It is evident that the majority of our legislators were taught in the WV public school system. They are a bunch of idiots.

  • WVWorker

    Why are they always comparing teacher salaries to teachers in other states, why don't they take a hard look, or even a quick glance, at how our students compare to students in other states. WV spends more per pupil than 90% of the other states on education and a lot of our high school students can't read on a third grade level. I think we should be getting more for the money we are spending now instead of rewarding the same incompetent teachers for poor results.
    It is evident that the majority of our legislators were taught in the WV public school system. They are a bunch of idiots.

  • Suggestion....

    Might I make a suggestion? If you are unhappy with your state job whatever it may be then do what I did. Leave it and go get something better. It may require more training/education but in the long run it will pay off. I was very unhappy working for the state (DOC actually) so I left it and persued a different career and I am now working in the field making a lot more and enjoy doing it. I know each person has different situations that can allow or now allow them to do that but if you are part of the ones that can.... then go do it.

    Don't wait for the WV government to make you happy, go make yourself happy.

    (Not bashing any state workers, just providing a possible option for some to try. It worked for me, hopefully it will work for others.)

    • Suggestion....

      *not allow....

  • calvin stackpole

    what i would like to know is where is all the extra revenue from the oil and gas boom is going. idiots running wva?.

  • peg

    you could get a job at Raleigh General Hospital. Their employees were given a raised & then it was taken back.

  • grif

    BOO HOO, teachers & correctional officers know the pay scale before accepting the job. If you want DC pay then go live in DC

  • C.H

    Yes, I am interested in hearing the results of the Heay Group project , that was conducted under Manchin.

  • Walsingham

    The teacher raise will probably cover the increase in union dues over the next year.

  • Dennis

    No mention of transportation funding for road and bridge repairs. With the notable slides that have been blocking roads and access to people's homes, you would have thought it would at least have deserved some mention.

  • Pclizzark

    You people should be more appreciative of what you get. The fact that the Governor is even considering pay raises amidst times of reduced revenue is a miracle. Try to find some joy in a positive thing rather than looking for reasons to whine. Also, shouldn't you be working right now and not surfing the Internet?

    • The truth

      Not all off us work 9 to 5.

  • Aaron

    One thing that public employees seem to forget is that the stakeholder they want to negotiate with in their demands for pay raises is not the Governor or the Legislature, it is the public taxpayers. We are the ones who must come up with the funds to support any raise given to you.

    Below, we read ignorant comments about organizing and walking out on the job. To those individual, I would suggest you take heart to FDR's words when he said such actions were "unthinkable and intolerable."

    I am curious though, there is one young lady who has suggested numerous times that if the state would grind to a halt without public employees. What I would really like to see is a list of invaluable state jobs that could not be completed more efficiently thus requiring a lower cost in the private market.

    Finally, I will say that for those interested in the truth, the plight of the public worker is not a dire as they would have you believe. Ceteris paribus, the compensation package for public employees is on par in the vast majority of circumstances and in some, better than private industry.

    While everyone wants to make more money, if you are unhappy, give up the sick time, vacation days, paid holidays and defined retirement plan that allows you to retire as early as 55 and venture out into the private world.

  • Aaron

    Check out this link that shows the average state workers compensation is actually higher than private industry in West Virginia...

    http://www.pewstates.org/projects/stateline/headlines/comparing-state-salaries-to-private-pay-85899487682