Grassroots group applauds lawmakers for fiscally responsible action despite special interest bully tactics
CHARLESTON, W.Va.— Tonight lawmakers passed a fair but fiscally responsible pay increase for teachers and other public employees. Sadly, this Thursday and Friday the parents of over 250,000 West Virginia students will still be forced to waste hard earned sick days, vacation time, pay for child care or simply have to miss work as a direct result of schools closing due to teacher strikes.
“It’s bad enough this teachers’ strike is illegal, but let’s be clear about what is really going on here,” said AFP-WV State Director Jason Huffman. “The strike is an unspoken call for higher taxes to pay for the unions’ unrealistic demands. Higher taxes are the last thing a struggling state like West Virginia needs. We commend lawmakers for keeping their promise to make government spending live within its means and not raise taxes in 2018.”
The organization will soon launching a series of efforts to help connect citizens concerned with already-bloated government spending with lawmakers who are working to holding the line.
Lawmakers have just approved a pay raise and benefit adjustment plan that is both fair and fiscally reasonable—but unions are still demanding more, despite our state’s budget woes in recent years.
West Virginia already spends the 6th most on education in the U.S. when compared to the amount of income of its citizens. We also spend the 10th most on salaries and the 5th most on employee benefits by the same measure. In short, instead of spending more on education, we should focus on spending our money more wisely.
Up until last year West Virginia was the only state with less than half of its population employed and just last month our state revenues were $29 million in the red. Our state must balance public employee pay with the fact that we’ve faced massive revenue shortfalls over the last several years and that our budget simply cannot withstand increased spending.
Teachers and public employees are vital parts of our communities and deserve fair treatment—but our state’s economy is just now beginning to recover and lawmakers must uphold their constitutional duty to keep the State’s budget balanced along with their promise to not raise taxes on some of the nation’s poorest communities.
While West Virginia average teacher pay rates are in the bottom ten of the U.S. at over $45,000, their total compensation package, including current PEIA and pension benefits, is extremely comparable—especially considering the rising cost of healthcare for everyone and failed policies like Obamacare causing individual health insurance premiums to rise by a national average of 27.2 percent this year.
Teachers in the Mountain State already receive an annual step increase, making lawmaker’s proposal of a 4% increase over the next five years actually closer to 8-9%.
President Trump and Congress just passed historic tax reform that is allowing residents of the Mountain State, and all Americans, to keep more of their hard earned paychecks. This will also help with public employee wages.
With continual problems with student achievement, lawmakers should look for ways to incentivize better education outcomes by rewarding quality educators while eliminating bad ones.