CHARLESTON - The House Education Committee voted Monday to sharply increase pay for West Virginia teachers and service personnel, despite concern about balancing the state's 2015 budget.
The amended bill would raise teacher salaries a total of $6,000 across-the-board over three years. Pay would be hiked $1,000 the first year, $2,000 the next, and $3,000 the third year under the proposal.
As the bill stands, service personnel would see a $3,000 raise over three years.
House Finance Committee Chairman Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said he didn't know how much extra the proposed raise would cost.
"It's certainly not something we have built into the budget at this point," Boggs said.
The amendment was introduced by Delegate David Walker, D-Clay, after he expressed concern about a $1,500 pay raise proposal by Delegate Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia. Walker said not including service personnel beyond the already allotted 2 percent was discriminatory.
Few spoke in favor of the $6,000 raise, although many expressed support for the smaller amount. However, Rick Moye, a Democrat from Raleigh County, said he approved the large raise but not the smaller effort. Moye disagreed with Pasdon's proposal to fund the $1,500 raise through unfunded liability repayment for teacher's retirement and lower costs in worker's compensation.
He said Walker's proposal, which didn't make a suggestion how to pay for the raises, would meet long-term goals to increase entry-level teacher positions.
Among those speaking out against the proposed increase were Delegates Mary Poling, D-Barbour, and Dave Pethel, D-Wetzel. Both called the drastic increase fiscally irresponsible.
Pethel said the Legislature faces two hard years of budget planning. He said he believes teachers deserve a raise, but teachers would also understand their inability to grant one at this time.
Speaking in favor of the raise, Linda Sumner, R-Raleigh, said, "We need to attract teachers to fill vacancies that will be opening up. We need to compete on a level with surrounding states to attract good teachers."
Butler said he understands the state's budget issues but feels they need to eliminate wasteful spending and spend money where it is needed. "The No. 1 thing we need to do is prioritize spending, and I think teachers should be at the top of the list," he said.
The Senate Bill 391 has gone through many changes since its introduction. In his 2015 budget proposal, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin first suggested a 2 percent raise for teachers and personnel as a step to increase the state's minimum salary for entry-level teachers to $43,000 by 2019. The Senate then proposed a $1,000 across-the-board raise, which dropped to $837 on the Senate floor last week.
The bill will go to the House Finance Committee.