By TAYLOR STUCK
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Despite the chants, yips and boos outside the chamber doors, Senate President Mitch Carmichael only had to call the room to order once after the West Virginia teachers who filled the Senate gallery applauded Sen. Richard Ojeda’s plan to give them a bigger raise.
“Now let’s work together and do something that will finally make these people up in the rafters happy,” Ojeda said following the Senate passing a bill that would give some state workers, including teachers, a 1 percent raise for each of the next five years.
The pay raise bill passed 33-0 Friday and amounts to raises of about $400 per year for teachers beginning July 1. The bill now goes to the House of Delegates.
The vote came as teachers from Logan, Mingo and Wyoming counties held a one-day walkout to rally at the Capitol seeking pay raises and better health benefits.
A day earlier, Senate Republicans cited fiscal concerns in rejecting attempts by Democrats for larger pay increases.
Democrats stood Friday to say they would vote for the bill but they did not like it.
Logan County Democrat Ojeda said after the vote that he had introduced a bill Thursday that would raise the oil and gas severance tax by 2.5 percent in order to bring in more revenue for a better raise.
He said the state’s lawmakers let coal go without taxing it sufficiently and they should not make the same mistake with oil and gas.
“We know we are standing on the richest grounds in the United States of America, and we know it’s coming,” Ojeda said. “If 2.5 percent equals $70 million and the straws fall, next thing you know you have $300 million. Then we will be able to easily give real raises, not percentages.”
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