CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The House of Delegates on Tuesday evening voted to adopt a multi-year pay raise bill for teachers, school service personnel and state police, sending it to Gov. Jim Justice for his signature.
The amended version of Senate Bill 267 will provide more than $119 million in pay increases to teachers, service personnel and state police over the next three years. All employees covered by the bill will receive an average 2-percent pay increase effective July 1, with state police and service personnel receiving an additional 1 percent the following year and teachers receiving 1 percent raises for the following two years.
Raises for additional state employees whose salaries are not set in code will be addressed in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget bill.
“This represents a substantial commitment to our teachers and public employees for the coming year,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. “This is the largest pay raise package our teachers and public employees have seen in decades, and is being done at a time when our budget picture still remains relatively tight.”
In addition to the pay raise, the Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board today approved the recommended freeze to all employee insurance plans – halting any changes to the premium structure and preventing any increases in deductibles, co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses for the coming year.
The freeze will be made possible by an additional $29 million in funding being provided by the Legislature that will be diverted to the PEIA trust fund.
“When you combine the 2-percent pay raise for teachers and state employees with the new money being diverted to PEIA, it represents more than $70 million in new spending on our public employees in the coming budget year – all without asking our citizens for new taxes,” Speaker Armstead said. “This is a strong package that represents our commitment to making our teachers and public employees our top priority.”
House Republican leaders were also prepared to vote on a separate bill Tuesday – House Bill 4625 – that would provide ongoing funding for PEIA by transferring 20-percent of any surplus General Revenue dollars at the end of each fiscal year to the PEIA Stability Fund. That fund, which helps offset increases in health care costs for public employees and retirees, was created by the Legislature in 2016 to replenish PEIA reserves that had been spent down under prior leadership earlier this decade.
Had this bill previously been in place, it would have diverted more than $138 million to the PEIA program since 2010.
However, the House was unable to vote on that bill after House Democrats refused to agree to suspend the rule requiring a bill be read on three consecutive days.
“Democrat legislators have been critical of the pace in reaching solutions. However, when they have a chance to advance a substantive bill that will provide such a long-term solution, they refuse to work in a bipartisan manner to adopt these solutions in a timely fashion,” Speaker Armstead said.
“This was a five-page bill that passed unanimously out of committee yesterday. Democrat members admitted this is a good policy, and they had a full day to prepare and consider any amendments to the bill, but they refused to allow it to advance,” Speaker Armstead said. “All session the minority has been shouting that we are in a crisis and we need action now, but suddenly when there’s a worthwhile idea that needs to advance, they choose to delay its passage.
“Leadership of the House, the Senate and the Governor are all committed to providing our teachers and public employees the best pay and benefits our resources will allow,” Speaker Armstead said. “We have delivered what we believe is a responsible, substantive increase to employee pay, while also halting any burdensome increases to their health insurance plans.”