CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates voted to approve a pay raise for teachers of 2 percent next year and 1 percent for the following three years.
The bill also provides for a 2 percent pay raise next year and 1 percent the following year for service personnel and State Police. Other state employees would be covered under whatever decisions are made during the overall budget process.
Debate on Tuesday was long but the bill passed overwhelmingly, 98-1, with Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, as the no vote.
Democrats continued to push for more. Most Republicans said this is the most the state can afford right now.
Finance Chairman Nelson: “We truly wish we could do more.” pic.twitter.com/gcf9QPxYgG
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) February 13, 2018
The bill now goes back to the Senate, which earlier passed it with a 1 percent raise in the first year. Republican leaders in the Senate have continued to say 1 percent next year is fiscally responsible.
The Senate could concur with what the House passed, or the issue could go to a conference committee.
Teachers unions, meanwhile, have said neither the 1 percent or the 2 percent is adequate.
Dale Lee, President of the West Virginia Education Association, & AFT-WV President Christine Campbell join @HoppyKercheval to talk about an impending teacher strike. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/T610pCUblQ
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) February 13, 2018
House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said the teacher pay raise by itself would cost an additional $24 million next year.
Freezing the Public Employees Insurance Agency plan for the coming fiscal year is expected to cost another $29 million.
“What we’ve put here is better than the governor and the Senate to date,” Nelson said.
Republicans have said the economy is on the upswing and that more might be possible in the future.
“Would you pledge to join with me, if there is growth, to bring this pay raise issue back next year?” asked Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood.
“I think that would be an absolute priority,” Nelson responded.
Democrats charged that the Legislature can do better if it desires.
“No one has made teacher pay raises a sufficient amount, a priority,” said House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison.
Fluharty, the delegate who wound up voting against the pay raise at the level proposed, said the message has been, “Just trust us guys. We’ll get it later.”
Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, called the pay raise bill at the current level a meaningless gesture.
“I will reluctantly vote for the Christmas hams you all are handing out around here,” Sponaugle said.
Democrats warned that a teacher work stoppage is at hand.
“The job’s not done. We still have teachers planning on walking out,” said Delegate Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha.
Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, added: “I don’t think it’s enough. I don’t think it’s going to avert a teachers strike.”
Pushkin said expectations about state revenue were raised during the State of the State address, during which Gov. Jim Justice spoke of “Happy Days” and showed a chart with projections of revenue growth over the next few years.
“I think the misinformation might have started on the first night of the session during the State of the State address,” Pushkin said.
“The misinformation started when we rolled out the magic chalkboard and told everybody we were rolling in dough.”