Justice sent out the notice just as the legislative conference committee was scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. to try to reach an agreement on the pay raise. The Senate and House had been at odds with the House favoring a 5 percent raise and the Senate supporting a 4 percent raise.
The governor indicated that all employees will get 5 percent raises, including state workers.
West Virginia school employees have been on strike for nine days over pay and health insurance issues.
At their meeting Tuesday morning, conference committee members accepted the deal to give all state employees, including teachers, school service personnel, State Police and other state employees a 5 percent pay raise.
They said they would be sending the committee’s report to the House and Senate, where they hoped that rules could be suspended so the pay raise bill could go to an immediate vote. The West Virginia Housed later passed the pay raise unanimously.
“What we have before us today I believe is the largest pay raise in state history,” said Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, a member of the committee.
The dispute over pay raises and health insurance has brought droves of school employees to the West Virginia Capitol to protest. The House of Delegates previously had passed a pay raise of 5 percent, but the Senate amended the bill and OK’d a 4 percent hike, resulting in the formation of the conference committee to try to hash out an agreement.
Angry school employees said they would not go back to work until an agreement on the 5 percent pay raise was reached. In light of Tuesday’s agreement, Blair called for school employees across the state to return to their jobs.
“Along with this I would encourage school superintendents and school personnel to go back to work as quickly as possible for our students in the state of West Virginia,” Blair said.
Blair said the pay raises would not come without some pain. He said there would be about $20 million in cuts, from general services and Medicaid, to make them happen. Committee member Bill Anderson, R-Wood, said he hopes if revenues improve, the Legislature could be called back into special session with a supplemental appropriation to restore any funds lost to such areas as commerce and tourism.
Del. Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, a member of the committee, said he believes the action by the conference committee is "the fair and fiscally responsible resolution to this matter.”
The committee’s decision to back the 5 percent raise was applauded by committee member Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne.
“This has always been the position of Senate Democrats, and we appreciate that you have come along to where we think we should be in supporting education,” Plymale said.
Committee member Del. Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said the resolution of the pay raise dispute was a long time coming.
“I wish we could have done this more quickly,” Boggs said.
Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said the Senate had been painted unfairly as the “bad guys” for simply not automatically accepting the governor’s new revenue estimate of $58 million and analyzing the numbers to see if they were valid.
“I have no regret for doing that,” Ferns said.
Ferns said lawmakers are elected officials and have the responsibility for ensuring the financial integrity of the state. He said the goal all along was providing the biggest raise possible without jeopardizing the state’s financial position.
News of the agreement on pay raises brought some jubilant response from school employees and union representatives at the Capitol.
"You did it!" Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, told cheering employees.
School employees yelled "today" and "We won!" when the deal was announced.
As school employees cheered inside the Capitol, the governor greeted them, clapped his hands and posed for photos.
"I believe in your purpose. I believe in you, and I love our kids," Justice told the crowd.
School employees could be heard inside the Capitol building, chanting, "Sign that bill! Sign that bill!"
During the nine-day walkout, thousands of school employees rallied at the Capitol. The turnout was so large on Monday that crowd capacity was reached inside the Capitol. Capitol Police and state fire marshals expressed concerns about the density and the size of the crowd. No more visitors were allowed inside the building for a period of time.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey early on during the education walkout said the action by school employees was illegal and said court rulings and state law provided the option of going to court to seek an injuncton to halt the strike. Morrisey said during the strike that no superintendents had contacted him about going to court, although he said he was prepared to take action and uphold state law.
West Virginia House Democrats released a statement Tuesday thanking educators for their fight for the pay raise.
"Teachers, school service personnel, state employees and their allies have made their voices heard the past nine days,” House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said in the statement. “House democrats were pleased to rally with these educators, and we thank them for putting pressure on the governor and the legislature to act."