CHARLESTON, W.VA. — Saying an extended walkout is “unnecessary,” legislative leadership and the governor said Friday that the state is doing all it can afford at this time. …
In an unanticipated mini-press conference on Friday, Gov. Jim Justice said he hoped there would not be a continuation of the walkout. His comments came shortly before
union leaders announced teachers and school personnel will return to the Capitol Monday, in what will be the third day of a walkout over pay raises and the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA).
Justice signed a controversial pay raise bill for teachers, school service personnel and State Police Wednesday. The measure calls for a 4 percent pay raise over three years for teachers and a 3 percent raise over two years for all others — 2 percent the first year and 1 percent each of the next two years for teachers, 2 percent the first year and 1 percent the following for all others.
Justice said giving a 2 percent pay raise, along with allocating $29 million to freeze PEIA, will cost the state $76 million and other initiatives will need to be cut. He said 2 percent is all the state can afford right now.
Justice said most of the money for the pay raise and the PEIA freeze initiatives will come from Commerce and Tourism.
“We put in $30 million in commerce and that’s lowered to $6 million,” he said. “We had $20 million for Tourism and we will have to whack that. … It all comes out of that or raise taxes, but I’m adamantly against that. It’s not going to happen.
“That’s got to come from somewhere,” Justice said. “We can cut substantial money from Commerce and Tourism, and possibly neuroscience from WVU. It’s little piece by little piece and they say it’s not enough. Let’s do more. Let’s do more. When is enough, enough?”
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Union leaders announced teachers and school personnel will return to the Capitol Monday, in what will be the third day of a walkout over pay raises and the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA). Officials said 4,521 entered the Capitol Friday.
Some in the minority party have called for addressing the issues in a special session.