The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

February 17, 2009

State employees pushing for pay raises

CHARLESTON — Public employees and some lawmakers are still hopeful there will be room in the budget for pay raises, despite West Virginia leaders calling for fiscally conservative decisions this session due to the recession.

"Certainly we understand - we have brother and sister members in other states that are facing layoffs and are facing concessions," Ed Hartman, state director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees' West Virginia Council 77, said Monday.

"We just want the governor and the legislature to be fair," Hartman said. "Whatever happens should be across the board."

AFSCME members from across West Virginia met with lawmakers and other union officials at the state Capitol on Presidents Day to lobby for pay raises and other issues.

"I'm not ready to roll over today," House Majority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, told AFSCME members. "We're going to do what we can to improve the quality of life for our West Virginians."

Other lawmakers say that while pay raises are a concern, the money just may not be there this year.

"My biggest concern is just keeping West Virginians employed," said Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha. He said job security is why he supports freezing pay.

"If you were to ask anybody, 'Do you want to make sure you have some degree of job security or a pay raise?' Most people in troubling times are going to say, 'Provide a degree of job security,' " Wells said. "There are other states that are cutting their budgets 10 and 12 percent. You start cutting that deep, you're going to have to start looking at cutting people as well, and I want to try to avoid that."

Gov. Joe Manchin has said no base-building salary increases would be included in this year's budget, but that if financial conditions improve enough he may ask to share any additional money with teachers, service personnel and state employees.

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