CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The third time wasn’t a charm for county elected leaders. On the last day of the 2014 Legislative session SB 379 failed to make it out of a conference committee.
The legislation called for pay raises for county commissioners, county clerks, sheriffs, circuit clerks, assessors and prosecutors. The 12 percent raise would have taken effect starting in 2017, 11 years after their last raise.
Patti Hamilton, the executive director of the West Virginia Association of Counties, thought the bill had a good chance. The Senate passed it unanimously. The House gave it the green light by a wide margin with a few changes, but when it went back to the Senate it didn’t get any traction.
“The surprise was that the Senate, at the very late hour of 11:30 p.m., refused to concur with the House amendment,” explained Hamilton.
She said, after weeks of lobbying for the bill, elected county leaders were shocked.
“I know the county officials that worked very hard on it, who were there to the bitter end, were beyond disappointed. They were devastated,” stressed Hamilton.
They pay raises wouldn’t have come from state coffers. It would have come from county money. The auditor could only sign off on a raise if the county had additional cash to pay for the increase.
Hamilton said she still can’t figure out what happened.
“I worked on a pay raise bill in 2002 that was 10 percent. I worked on one in 2006 that was 20 percent. Why this has become so difficult, I couldn’t tell you,” said Hamilton.
However, she knows one thing for sure.
“They’ll try again next year.”