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Bill lays basis for locality pay

March 13, 2009

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- State Sen. Herb Snyder has made no mention of locality pay in a bill he hopes to shepherd through the first session of the 79th Legislature this year.

Locality pay is higher pay paid to state employees in certain areas -- such as the Eastern Panhandle -- to help them offset higher costs of living.

Senate Bill 277, which would require the state's tax commissioner to annually gather and compile housing costs in each of the state's 55 counties and present the information to lawmakers, cleared the Senate earlier this week.

Substitute language adopted last week by the Senate Government Organization Committee "cleaned" up the version of the bill that Snyder originally introduced, the Jefferson County lawmaker said.

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Fellow Democratic 16th district Sen. John Unger was the only other bill sponsor.

"That is a major step for us," Snyder said of the Senate's roll call vote this week.

While little, if any, money is available this year for pay raises, Snyder has said that the "single-dwelling housing index" would lay the foundation for helping lawmakers address persistent locality pay or cost-of-living concerns among state employees.

Snyder said his sales pitch for the bill has only been that "it's real good information to have" and added that he makes no mention of locality pay.

While Snyder thinks the chances for clearing the House are good, he plans to visit with delegates to explain what the bill would do.

Snyder said he has talked with the tax department and is hoping to do a "test run" of compiling the information that he could share with lawmakers in the House.

-- Matthew Umstead

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