West Virginia’s House and Senate on Saturday approved a budget for the state government with $4.38 billion in general revenues for the fiscal year starting July 1, including raises for teachers, prison guards and many other state workers.
The 5 percent raises approved to end a nine-day strike by teachers and school service personnel are based on pay averages and apply to personnel paid from the state funds.
The budget contains no new taxes, lawmakers said. They attributed the $156 million of higher spending than the current budget mainly to the pay packages, plus funding to freeze workers’ health care premiums, deductibles and co-payments under the Public Employees Insurance Agency.
Guards at the state’s jails and prisons, which have been chronically understaffed, will get three annual $2,000 pay increases and the 5 percent.
“When you combine the raises with increased funding to PEIA and our retirement plans, this budget provides more than $150 million in increased pay and benefits to our public employees over the coming year,” said House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Nelson, a Charleston Republican. “That is a substantial investment in our teachers, service personnel and state employees and is all being done without a single tax increase.”
The Legislature finished its one mandatory piece of business on the last scheduled day of its 60-day regular session.
The budget doesn’t contain an additional $58 million in spending based on the Justice administration’s revised tax estimates that it produced during the teachers’ strike as a means for funding raises to end the strike. Legislators said Saturday that if more money does come in they can pass supplemental bills to use it elsewhere.