Public employees want fast action on PEIA fix

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK)- Governor Jim Justice and state lawmakers are in the hot seat over growing public outcry for better public employee pay. State workers also want to see PEIA fixed- and fast.

13 News sat in on a town hall Tuesday night as employees demand answers.

Betty Rivard is a retired DHHR social worker. She said in the 80’s West Virginia’s public employees went years without a pay increase, and now the state is back in the same boat.

“But going all those years with a family of 4 where I was the main support- it was terrible. I mean I couldn’t have made it if my family didn’t help me out, my parents,” Rivard explained.

West Virginia now ranks 48th in teacher pay and 50th in state government employee pay. So the state struggles to keep workers from going across state lines.

“You know it just kind of gets to you because you know the quality of what you’re doing is as good as anywhere in the country, and the people are as good and we deserve what anybody else has,” Rivard added.

Governor Jim Justice has proposed a 1% salary increase for each of the next five years, but that’s about $400 a year- and many say it’s not enough.

“If we can propose to pay our judges- what are we going to do for public employees and public school teachers?” 6th grade math teacher, Fred Albert, asked.

So lawmakers are proposing a fix, a new funding stream to pay for raises and an insurance fix- like a 25-cent sales tax bump, or a natural gas or soda tax.

“I had talked about the soda tax. Well that was a bi-partisan bill that was introduced last week that would basically put all that funding to PEIA,” Delegate Andrew Byrd said.

But the Governor has pledged no new taxes this year, and conservatives are hesitant to ask taxpayers for more.

Teachers unions will be meeting with the Governor’s administration this week to continue discussions regarding a pay raise and PEIA fix.

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