Committees Approve Bills to Create Future Fund, Increase Teacher Salaries
The House Judiciary Committee looked over Senate Bill 461 which would create the Future Fund.
No substantive changes were suggested by the committee.
While none of the delegates opposed the idea of setting aside extra money from severance tax from natural resources for the sake of future projects, there were concerns the language of the bill would allow future legislatures to change the code and use the money for other purposes.
A proposed constitutional amendment from the Senate would alleviate these fears if passed by the public. It would clearly dictate that the money could not be used other than for its intended purpose.
Delegate Justin Marcum supported the bill saying that this was a chance for West Virginia to take care of itself in a way it did not in the past.
“As a delegate from the coal fields I think some of our legislatures from the past have missed a prime opportunity to do this same thing with the coal severance tax,” Marcum said. “It’s a great way to help our entire state and being from a coal-producing area it’s a great way for me to go home and tell my constituents in 2020 we’ve got ways to bring money back to southern West Virginia.”
The bill was approved unanimously and sent on to its next reference in Finance.
Another Senate bill approved for a second reference was 391, providing a salary increase for teachers and school service personnel.
The House Education Committee took the bill up and proposed three amendments each increasing the raise.
The first two amendments increased the raise by $1000 and then $1500 across the board.
Committee Chair Mary Poling says that the third amendment proposed by Delegate David Walker would increase the total raise to $6000 in three years.
The first year would be by $1000, the second by $2000 and the third by $3000.
“That amendment was discussed at length,” Poling said. “I actually had Delegate Perry to chair and oppose the amendment but it passed on a very strong voice vote and so we then passed the bill out with that amendment.”
She says while there is debate over the figure, there is little debate over the need for a salary increase.
“There aren’t enough teachers available. This was an idea that by giving the thousand it would bump the starting salaries up so that it would be easier to recruit new teachers.”
The bill will now move on to the House Finance Committee.