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STRIKE ON! West Virginia Senate Tells Teachers To Fuck Off With That Raise The Gov Promised

Just look at those greedheads. How much beautiful clean coal have they mined, huh?

You know that West Virginia teachers’ strike we thought had been resolved the other day? Turns out the state Senate couldn’t be assed to pass a bill to back up the deal Gov. Jim Justice offered (a five percent pay raise for teachers and school support staff, as well as raises for other state workers).

The House of Delegates quickly passed a bill Wednesday that would have increased teacher and staff pay by five percent, as the governor had offered, and which also gave a five percent pay raise to state troopers. The House voted 98 to 1 for the pay raise, but the state Senate wasn’t about to rush into anything so fiscally rash.

The state Senate president, Mitch Carmichael, explained the state simply can’t afford a raise for teachers:

“We cannot continue to spend money we do not have or write checks we cannot cash,” he said.

He didn’t quite mention that West Virginia has passed a whole bunch of tax cuts in recent years, which just might be part of the problem. Oddly, the state didn’t experience so much growth that it could fund all its priorities! (Which were, to be honest, just more tax cuts anyway.)

Teachers went out on strike a week ago because their previous one percent pay raise was likely to be more than swallowed up by anticipated increases in premiums and out-of-pocket costs for healthcare through the Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA). Prior to the strike, the state had imposed a 17-month freeze on PEIA premium increases, but teachers rightly saw that as just delaying the problem — and with only a tiny raise, they’d stand to lose money once the freeze ended. On Tuesday, Justice said that new budget projections indicated the state could afford to give teachers a 5 percent raise instead, pending approval by the legislature. Carmichael, the state Senate president, said however that he was skeptical that the $ 58 million in extra revenue would really materialize, and the Senate declined to increase teacher pay.

Justice did at least do his best Han Solo “It’s not my fault!” act for the teachers Thursday:

“I’m trying. What else can I do?” Justice, speaking from the driver’s seat of a black SUV, told a crowd of teachers near the state Capitol. “I’m not king. I’m doing what all I can possibly do.”

The teachers, of course, already had a bad feeling about this.

“The number one thing was we needed a permanent fix to PEIA,” Lori Hausvater, a math and special education teacher at Lincoln High School in Shinnston, said. “It wasn’t about the money at all. It was about the insurance fix.”

Justice had pleaded with the teachers in a letter sent to all state employees to just be patient and the task force would figure out a solution, just hold your horses, OK? He promised that the task force would “begin its work immediately,” but that “identifying all of the issues in our health care program and finding a solution takes time,” and PEIA’s problems couldn’t be solved “in 30 minutes.”

So Sen. Carmichael’s next great idea was to direct the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday to rewrite the pay-raise bill to eliminated the pay raise and direct those funds to serve as a source of long-term revenue for health coverage under PEIA. Hey, that’s what the teachers said was really important wasn’t it? That’s what they said. Further, I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you.

What is it about senate leaders named Mitch?

High school teacher Nick Watts said that if the Senate had passed the House bill, he’d have gladly returned to the classroom, but that there are too many risks with Carmichael’s proposal:

He said that, “with the raise, it’s there, and we know it’s there, and it’s a guarantee now, until it’s written out of [state] code. A one-time $ 58 million into the PEIA trust fund, if there’s no guarantee that that’s going to be something that’s continual, then I don’t see that as a fix for PEIA.”

Watts said he defines “fix for PEIA” as a long-term, dedicated funding source that keeps any benefit cuts or cost increases that do occur manageable into the future.

But … actually having a stable funding source for public employee benefits might make it harder to enact tax cuts, and what fun would that be for Republicans?

For now at least, the teachers are staying out, and it’s becoming less clear what kind of solution will get them back into their classrooms. We’d suggest that in this case at least, giving them all guns might prove remarkably persuasive, but that would definitely violate our commenting rules, so we wouldn’t dream of saying that. Instead, we’ll just point out that — in a far more pleasant convergence of news trends — high school students in 12 counties have formed a group to protest in solidarity with their striking teachers. Go, #Teens! Try not to burn out, though — this saving the world stuff is a long-term project.

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[CNN / Charleston Gazette-Mail / Nation]

Source: Politics – Wonkette

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