CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Mitch Carmichael said while lawmakers understand the proposed 1 percent yearly raise for public education employees is not enough, it is the best the Legislature can do at this time.
“If our economy continues to expand, we’ll do more. We can’t do it until we have the money,” he said on MetroNews “Talkline.”
A second reading on the bill will be held Thursday, as Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso was not available to propose any amendments.
There are at least two proposed amendments believed to be supported by Democrats. One would give an immediate $6,000 raise to teachers while the other would call for a three percent increase the first year followed by four consecutive years of increases of one percent.
Carmichael called those proposals “irresponsible.”
“I believe that and I think, frankly, any observer even a casual observer of our state budget would label those as irresponsible and not a serious proposal but it does curry favor with a particular interest group,” Carmichael said.
Carmichael said lawmakers have to be responsible with pay increases and this is just the beginning.
“The worst thing we can do is just emerge from this nighttime of darkness in terms of our economic condition and then just spend like drunken sailors,” he said.
Teachers in Logan, Mingo and Wyoming counties have one-day walkouts planned to protest the proposed raise, as well as rising health insurance costs.
House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said on “Talkline” teachers are ready to strike; educators in Harrison County held an information meeting Tuesday evening to voice their concerns with the financial condition of public education employees.
“Why don’t you wait until after the legislative session to see if anything is done to appease your needs?” he said regarding teachers. “If nothing is done, then consider a strike.”
Miley proposed a 2.5 percent yearly raise over five years.
“I just think wait to see what we are able to do for you before you take that step, because that’s a pretty big step,” he said referring to a walkout. “That just doesn’t affect you all. It affects students and families as well depending on how long a strike may last.”
Miley said part of the frustration with teachers is how the state’s financial picture is being presented. He said Gov. Jim Justice is singing the praises of economic turnaround but his actions, like his one percent pay raise bill, don’t back up the rhetoric.
“But when people hear how great the state is doing–they are like ‘show me the money,'” Miley said.
A debate on teacher pay occurred on the floor of the House of Delegates during Wednesday’s floor session.
The last teacher strike took place in 1990, which resulted in lawmakers passing salary increases as well as an increase in training and teacher programs.