Governor proposes pay raise, bonus for state workers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday that he is proposing a 5% pay raise for all state employees along with a one-time bonus of 2.5% to offset inflation.

Justice was joined at an announcement at the state Capitol by Senate President Craig Blair and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw. All are Republicans.

The raises will be considered by lawmakers at their three-month session that starts in January.

Justice said the state’s positive fiscal status allows the raises to be considered. West Virginia had an $88 million revenue surplus in November, pushing the surplus since the July start of the fiscal year to $269 million.

“We’ve pumped out surpluses, and with those surpluses we want to reward our people,” Justice said. “We want to reward our people for a lot of great work that they have done.”

According to the National Education Association, West Virginia ranks 36th in average starting teacher salaries at about $38,000, compared with the national average of about $41,000. The state was 48th in overall average teacher salaries at about $50,200, compared with the national average of $65,000.

West Virginia teachers received pay raises in 2018 and 2019. The first raise ended a statewide teacher strike that helped launch similar movements in several others states.

The following year, state teachers went on another strike, this time over a wide-ranging bill that addressed West Virginia’s first charter schools. The bill eventually failed but a similar measure, which contained another teacher raise, was resurrected and passed in a special summer legislative session, undercutting the threat of a third strike.