By PHIL KABLER
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As at least three southern West Virginia counties announced school closures Friday because of planned teacher walkouts, the state Senate Thursday debated at length, but rejected two proposals to increase teacher pay raises beyond the series of 1 percent hikes sought by Gov. Jim Justice.
That included an amendment to increase the first year of the five annual 1 percent raises to a 3 percent increase, a proposal rejected on a party line 12-24 vote.
Also Thursday, Gov. Justice announced he is proposing a change intended to temper a pending spike in PEIA health insurance premiums, a cost increase that is contributing to what Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, called a “bad storm arising” among teachers and state employees.
Justice announced he will ask the PEIA Finance Board to modify the new PEIA mandate to set PEIA premiums based on total family income, a change that otherwise would mean significant increases in family coverage premiums for many PEIA insurees.
Justice said that for families where both spouses work for the state, or for public school systems, he wants the premium based on total family income divided in half. Justice said that would provide premium savings for some 5,120 public employees.
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