Updated Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at 6:05 p.m.
With the omnibus education bill effectively dead, the House of Delegates has turned its attention to providing pay raises for state employees, including teachers, service personnel and state police. The lower chamber’s Finance Committee cleared a bill Wednesday that would do just that.
The House Finance Committee sent House Bill 2730 to the House floor in a matter of moments during a Wednesday meeting. The measure, introduced on behalf of Gov. Jim Justice, would provide an average 5 percent pay increase for state employees whose salaries are set in state code.
A fiscal note from the Department of Education estimates the cost of those increases at $67.7 million. State police raises will cost roughly $1.8 million, accoring to a fiscal note from that agency.
“This is a promise that was made before the election, after election and at the start of the session,” House Finance Minority Chair Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, said after the bill cleared committee.
Bates said he hopes movement on the bill will help end a school employee strike, which now stands at two days.
“People need to keep these two issues very separate -- and we are. But I think that by moving on this real quickly, what we do is we send the message that there's good reason to call to the work stoppage to an end and for everyone to be back in school tomorrow.”
The full House is set to receive the committee’s recommendation at 6 p.m. The chamber's Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the pay raise bill on Friday at 8 a.m.
While interest on the measure is there, House rules dictate that the public hearing would take place before the bill goes to a vote. But questions linger about what might happen to the bill once it reaches the upper chamber.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said he is committed to pay raises but will evaluate House Bill 2730 when it comes his way.
“I'll be disappointed if all they do is merely a pay raise. But, obviously, we'll deal with it if we get it. We're intent on providing a teacher pay raise,” Carmichael said.
Funding for the state employee health insurance program -- which has been another sticking point for educators -- is addressed in the governor’s proposed budget.
Clarification: The update to this story makes it clear that the bill provides raises to state employees whose salaries are set by state code.