CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — House Minority Leader and Harrison County Delegate Tim Miley stood among teachers, service personnel and other supporters Saturday rallying along Emily Drive in Clarksburg.
Miley said he gets their frustration — not only with teacher pay but also about rising costs of the Public Employees Insurance Agency.
“Their benefits are being eroded, and (there’s) no corresponding meaningful increase in pay,” he said. “There will be a $60 million deficit and perpetuity in PEIA if something is not done to permanently fix it.”
Many who participated in the rally Saturday said public employees felt ignored by the Legislature and that public education has not been apparent among legislative priorities.
“You’ll see a person’s or a state’s values by where they place their money, and instead of worrying about business cuts or tax cuts for businesses, let’s worry about first taking care of the people who are state employees,” he said.
Miley and other legislators such as state Senator Mike Romano (D-Harrison) have spoken about making a priority of pay and benefits for public employees.
Republicans in the Legislature have said the raise is what they can offer right now as the state emerges from several difficult budget years.
On Friday, the state Senate passed a 1-percent pay increase for each of the next five years for teachers, service personnel and uniformed and administrative State Police.
Teachers rallying on Saturday called the amount “a slap in the face.”
“(Gov. Jim Justice) had a press conference scheduled (on Friday). He couldn’t bear to face the teachers, and he’s acting like this is a surprise,” Miley said. “Why are we here almost halfway through this session and he’s done nothing about it?”
In an appearance Friday on MetroNews “Talkline,” Governor Justice claimed that there were Democrats last year who did not support pay raises for teachers. Miley sad that “was just, simply not true.”
“That’s an absolute lie and an untruth, and he can say whatever he wants, of course. He plays politics all the time,” Miley said. “There was not a single Democrat that I’m aware of and not a single Democrat in any meeting in which I was a part of that was against that pay raise.”
Miley said last year’s pay increase failed for a different reason — the Republican majority.
“I give the governor credit for proposing it, but the Republican majority — who by the way is in the majority in large numbers — refused to provide any revenue enhancements to pay for it,” he said.
“It had nothing to do with Democrats. Democrats totally supported the teacher pay raises like they always have, and it’s about time the governor grows up and stops telling untruths and lies in public.”