Tuesday, February 24, 2015

House Holds Budget Briefings, Busy Day in Both Chambers

The Conference budget from the House and Senate has couple of bright spots.  First, there is $52.9 million in funding for a 1.5% salary increase for educators.  Secondly, the General Assembly is pouring about $193 million into the Teacher VRS plan, alleviating some of the pressure, due to the unfunded liability, on the pension plan.

The salary increase is long overdue.  The increase is funded for ten and a half months – apparently a compromise between the Senate’s ten months and the House’s 11 months that they had proposed in earlier budgets.  The teacher raise is also lower than the amount being provided to state workers, faculty at universities and colleges, and state-supported local employees such as Commissioners of Revenue and Treasurers. 
Other than the pay increase and the funding for VRS, there are only minor changes to K-12 funding.  There is $52.9 million for school construction loans through the Literary Fund.  This is more than there has been in the fund for loans for years but less than what the Governor had proposed for construction loans and interest rate subsidies.  There is some money for K-12 initiatives such as extended year programs and training.
The budget language does keep hope of a statewide health insurance option alive.  It “Includes language instructing the Department of Human Resource Management to conduct an actuarial analysis of the impact of including employees of political subdivisions and their dependents in the state employee health plan and also to conduct a review of the Local Choice Health program.

Much more detail will be coming out from VEA soon.  From here, each of the two chambers vote on the budget.  Assuming they pass it, it then goes to the Governor. 

On the legislative front, the House passed the Dickie Bell’s virtual school bill, HB324, but it contains a reenactment clause requiring passage next year if it is to go into effect.  The vote was 61-38.
Senator Howell’s teacher turnover study, SJR218, passed the House on a 99-0 vote.

Obenshain’s Charter School Constitutional Amendment, SJR256, which had passes the Senate by 1 vote (See yesterday’s post), passed the House on a58-42 vote.
In the Senate, Delegate Farrell’s bill, HB1320, prohibiting requiring teachers to pay for courses for relicensure, passed 39-0 in a block vote.