Delegate Kelli Sobonya Explains Pay Increase Passed by Legislature

Updated 3 weeks ago Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

by Kelli Sobonya

The original pay raise bill was 1% each year for 5 years (1/1/1/1/1). The House amended the bill to be 2/1/1/1. Today, the Senate further amended our pay raise bill to 2/1/1 that passed in a bi-partisan manner in the Senate. They kept our 2% on the front end but took off 1% on the back end with the caveat that as economy improves, it can be raised further.

For final passage, the house voted and passed the pay raise bill on a vote of 59 to 43 with 4 members absent. It is now on way to Governor.

It's more than the pay raise bills proposed by Governor Tomblin in 2012 and Governor Justice in 2014. They proposed only 2% with no additional 1% each year moving forward.

They did not include a "fix" for PEIA. I don't understand the no vote when this raise is larger than the last two pay raises passed by the legislature due to budget constraints. Did I prefer the House version, you bet! But the Senate met us part way. Some advocated dragging this pay raise out and putting it into a conference committee. The only thing a conference committee can do is argue over the DIFFERENCES between the House & Senate. The only difference left to argue was whether there was an additional 1% in the fourth year. The Legislature can increase any of the out years more than 1%.

It is important to me to get a much-needed pay raise across the finish line for public employees, troopers, corrections officers, teachers a multi-year pay raise with 2% this coming fiscal year. The ball is now in the Governor's court.

Also on Thursday, we will be voting on a bill to fully fund PEIA again this year. The PEIA Board on our recommendation voted to keep premiums and benefits at last years program levels and to end Go365 and consideration of household income.

Our leadership, unlike years past, has made the commitment to bring together all stakeholder groups (teachers, public employees, insurance experts, policy makers, etc.) to come up with viable solutions.

Legislators of both parties value our teachers and public employees. We had to plug a $500 million hole last year and we still have budgetary challenges. We have 1.8 million people depending on the limited revenue we have for our state. Our dollars go to Medicaid, higher education, foster children, drug epidemic, our court system and prisons, public education, disabled individuals, veterans, military affairs, public health, etc etc. We want to do more. We will do more, but we must also be fiscally responsible in an attempt to leave no one behind.

To Cabell teachers and employees who plan to venture to the Capitol on Thursday and/or Friday, I am looking forward to meeting with you to hear your concerns. 

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