Bill gives raises to teachers, judges

March 15, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Eastern Panhandle's delegation in the state Legislature voted along party lines on the pay raise bill for teachers, elected judiciary and other state workers, with Democrats voting for the bill and Republicans voting against it. The House voted 74-24 for a compromise measure Saturday. The Senate passed the bill 27-6.

Del. Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, who voted for the House Finance Committee's version of the bill on March 2, said he opposed the Senate's subsequent move to amend the legislation to include pay raises for the judiciary, and ultimately joined 24 delegates in voting against the compromise measure on Saturday. All of the delegation's Democratic members voted for the pay raise bill and all the Republicans voted against it, according to a review of roll votes.

The legislation includes $1,488 for teachers, $970 for state troopers and $835 for natural resources police.

The adjutant general stands to get a $32,500 increase and judicial raises range from $7,500 for magistrates to $15,000 for Supreme Court justices.

School workers are expected to get $500 and state employees would get between $500 and $1,200.

Freshman Del. Eric Householder, R-Berkeley/Jefferson, said he supported Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's proposed one-time payments, but otherwise was opposed to a permanent increase.

Householder, whose wife is a school teacher, said he told a judge who contacted him the night before he voted on Saturday that he couldn't support the bill.

The pay increases are projected to increase annual general tax and lottery spending by $67 million, and Householder said the spending measure was not right when so many people are suffering in a difficult economy.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said he felt the pay raise bill was a good compromise overall, but personally did not like being forced to vote on a package of salary increases that included all of the elected offices in the judiciary.

The judiciary raises were amended into the House bill in the Senate on March 4. After the House refused to agree to the changes, the Senate refused to recede from what they amended and requested a conference committee between the chambers to reach a resolution, according to the Legislature's reference and information office's website.

The House agreed to conference with the Senate and members of both chambers produced a report that could not be amended, said Doyle, who joined other Democrats in the Eastern Panhandle delegation in voting for the legislation on Saturday.

"I would have (only) voted for the magistrates," Doyle said. "But it was all a package."

Among other legislative action, Duke said the delegation's successful bid for state funding to help publicly-run wastewater treatment plants in the Eastern Panhandle meet environmental standards to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay was a "feather in our cap."

Without the funding outlined in Senate Bill 245, Duke said residents would likely see their sewer bills triple.

Other bills of interest to the Eastern Panhandle that passed the Legislature included House Bill 2871, which requires development proposed for brownfield industrial areas to conform to local zoning laws.

"It will make sure something like (the proposed development of the old Standard quarry in Jefferson County) never happens again," Del. John Doyle said of the controversial project. Lawmakers also passed a bill that allows Jefferson County Commission to waive or reduce impact fees and capital improvement fees of affordable housing units in their county.

In his first regular session, Householder said he was disappointed with the deal that was made for the state's four racetrack casinos. Senate Bill 550 allows Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and the other casino operators to keep up to $10 million in gambling revenue a year through fiscal year 2020 to buy new equipment and machines.

Six bills pertaining to the West Virginia Racing Commission, the panel that oversees racing at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, also passed the Legislature, Doyle said.

One of the most significant bills revises the rules of racing, which according to Doyle needed to be done for a long time and was the result of more than a year of work.

A second notable racing bill to pass allocates 4.5 percent or a maximum of $305,000 in thoroughbred development fund revenue for administration costs, according to Doyle.

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