CHARLESTON — This week was one to remember at the State Capitol when raises for public employees were passed after much debate.
That debate in the House of Delegates was relatively short-lived compared to the path the raises took in the State Senate. However, this week, after a six-member conference committee agreed Tuesday to the new proposal, the House of Delegates subsequently passed 5 percent raises for teachers, school service personnel and state troopers on a 99-0 vote. The Senate followed, voting 34-0.
On Tuesday, when word came down the raises passed, the Point Pleasant Register reached out to Delegates Scott Brewer (D-13th), Josh Higginbotham (R-13th) and Jim Butler (R-14th) for comment.
Butler said: “I was very happy to support a plan to provide for reasonable pay raises for all state employees, and allow our children to get back to school. This is the culmination of work that we have been doing since the beginning of the legislative session; after receiving a curve ball, in the form of a revenue revision, from the Governor we have passed legislation that I think is fair to everyone. I have worked in the Legislature to support policies to improve the lives of every West Virginian; we are only able to pay for the many obligations of the state, and provide for these pay raises because we held off massive taxes, and excessive spending in recent years. That work has resulted in positive revenue projections through 2024. We must continue to make responsible decisions, and reduce unnecessary spending in order to stay on track.
I have been glad to speak with many state employees, including teachers, school service personnel, state police, and many others here at the Capitol. Their input has been important as we worked through the budget to allocate funds for pay raises, to fund public employees insurance, and to create a task force to address future challenges with public employees insurance.
I would like everyone to know that I, along with my colleagues here, have explored all available options to make decisions which are considerate of the needs of all West Virginians. Once again I am glad that we were able to agree on a plan that is acceptable to everyone, and which allows our students to get back in the classroom.”
Brewer said: “I’m not only proud of, but also amazed by the effort of our public employees in their fight for fair wages in Charleston over the last couple weeks. As a supporter from the beginning, I’ve been approached by literally thousands of public employees thanking me for supporting their effort. My response has always been to thank them for the job they do, thank them for bringing their voices to the Capitol, and to always remember that our job as legislators is to do what’s right for our citizens. If your legislators refuse to meet with you or listen to your needs, then you have the right to assemble in YOUR house in Charleston. I congratulate our public employees for standing together in their effort to get a decent pay raise, and remind them that we as legislators still have work to do with PEIA. Congratulations again to our public employees, thank you for your support, and God bless you all.”
Higginbotham said: “The House of Delegates passed a historic 5 percent pay raise for all West Virginia employees—including teachers, service personnel, and state troopers. This passed on the heels of the $6,000 pay raise that correctional officers will be receiving. I have advocated for a 5 percent pay raise since day one of this Legislative Session, and I am overjoyed that it made it across the finish line.”
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.