The West Virginia Senate has passed a state budget with money earmarked for a potential teacher pay increase, priming a legislative overtime where lawmakers plan to debate raises and other measures that spurred strikes this year and last.
Senators approved the budget Friday night, ending an impasse by setting aside funding for the 5 percent raises in an unappropriated line item that will be addressed in a special session.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice has called for a special legislative session to be held after the 60-day regular session ends Saturday.
It’s unclear exactly when the legislature would return, but Republican leadership is signaling they might reconvene in late spring or early summer, which union leaders say might be a strategy to negate the impact of a third strike.
Justice has asked lawmakers to go out and seek input from teachers, parents and others so legislators can return and address the raises and additional education issues.
Earlier this session, the House of Delegates passed a measure dealing solely with teacher raises, but the proposal languished in a Senate committee.
The approved budget includes $10 million for a grant program for free community and technical college for state students and $12.8 million in additional funds for state four-year colleges and universities. It also doles out an additional $1.5 million for local health departments and $500,000 for dash and body cameras for state police.
The budget now heads to the governor’s office.