CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Senate President Mitch Carmichael said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” the proposed five percent pay increase for teachers and other state workers made earlier this week by Gov. Jim Justice will happen.
“It’s just a fantastic proposal and I can guarantee that this will occur in the next legislative session,” Carmichael said.
Justice announced Tuesday he’ll propose the raise for teachers and other state workers along with a $100 million infusion into the state Public Employees Insurance Agency. Justice basing his plan on the state’s strengthening revenue picture. Tax collections have exceeded estimates by more than $119 million in the first three months of the fiscal year.
Teachers received a five percent raise in the current state budget after a strike earlier this year. Union leaders have questioned the timing of Justice’s announcement with the Nov. 6 election quickly approaching.
Carmichael said changes Republicans have made have helped improve the economy and he believes there will be enough money going forward to add the cost of the pay raises, approximately $120 million a year to the base budget.
“Most reasonable people will look at this and say this is validation of what the Republicans said from the beginning that they would always invest in education as the money came available and the changes they made to the business climate generated those new revenue streams,” Carmichael said.
Justice shared his plan with leading Republican lawmakers, according to Carmichael. But House of Delegates Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, believes many Republicans were caught off guard and don’t like their hands being tied.
“Republican leadership in both the House and Senate are not happy with the governor coming out and making that commitment,” Miley said Thursday on “Talkline.” “Because they have other priorities–such as the equipment and inventory tax which they would like to eliminate–and they are not happy despite what they say publicly, I can assure you.”
Miley said three months of tax collections don’t make a budget.
But during a Wednesday appearance on “Talkline,” Justice said he believes it’s possible the fiscal year may end next June with revenues exceeding estimates by as much as $300 million.
“If we’re $300 million we better go back to what I said in the beginning, education is the centerpiece,” Justice said.
Justice denies his announcement was political and denies he took a shot at teachers who rallied at the state capitol during their strike earlier this year with comments he made Tuesday.
“There was a lot of good that came out of seeing the people stand up and voicing their opinions in the strike. The teachers–I’m good with every bit of that. I’m not good with the rah-rahing of the politicians. The Democrat politicians that basically delivered us nothing, that gave teachers nothing from 1990 to 2015.”
Justice also said he made his announcement now about the pay raises and PEIA funding to get his spending priorities out early.
“As you grow these monstrous surpluses that we’re growing everybody’s going to dive in and say, “We want this. We want this. We want this.’ It was my thinking, right off the get go, let’s just stop that before it happens and let’s reserve that money for our five percent pray raise and PEIA,” Justice said. “Let’s just take it off the table before everyone starts running and scrambling for the cheese because that’s what they’ll do.”
Miley said you can’t separate the announcement from politics.
“Of course it was political because they realize they’re going to lose seats. They realize the momentum is against them because of national issues,” he said.
Miley said Justice also may have forgotten about what has to happen with any surplus.
“I think his ego wants him to have a huge surplus but he doesn’t realize he has to put half in Rainy Day (fund). So take whatever the surplus is claiming to be and then put half in Rainy Day or he has to come back in and adjust the revenue estimates,” Miley said.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) October 4, 2018