An effort to help out state education employees proposed by acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in his State of the State speech might help them, but it’s going to be a little difficult to implement across the state. On January 12 Tomblin said:

I know that our teachers deserve a higher salary. But at this moment, we cannot afford additional pay raises that will add to the State budget forever. I am proposing a one-time, $800 across-the-board enhancement for our teachers. This recognizes the hard work that our teachers put into our system while at the same time does not add to our base budget. Frankly, it should be more and we need to strive for a day when our teachers are paid at a rate equivalent to the most important role they play.

This makes it sound reasonable and limited. But the “salary enhancements” also include a $500 bonus for all other state employees, including those employed in the state’s public colleges. The fact that the money “does not add to our base budget” doesn’t mean it’s actually affordable.

According to a piece by Walt Williams at West Virginia’s WOKW TV:

Brian Noland, chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission, told lawmakers Tuesday that one-time bonus for state employees put forward by acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is only half-funded in the governor’s proposed budget.

The universities would need to come up with the other $7 million needed to give their employees a bonus. That could happen either through saving money through finding better operating efficiencies, reducing revenue somewhere else or raising tuition, with every 1 percent increase generating about $4.5 million.

Colleges would have to increase tuition 2 percent, according to Noland, to pay for the bonuses. Noland argued that the state isn’t providing enough money to West Virginia’s public colleges.

In 2001 West Virginia taxes provided 58 cents of every dollar that colleges spent. Today taxes only cover 37 cents.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer