Va. budget deal includes raises for teachers, faculty, Capitol Police

IMAGE: BOB BROWN / RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH

Teachers, college faculty and the Virginia Capitol Police would get pay raises under a budget deal negotiators for the House of Delegates and Senate reached Wednesday.

The agreement would give a 2 percent raise to teachers and college and university faculty.

The deal provides the state’s share of an additional 1 percent raise for faculty at eight higher education institutions that did not give raises or bonuses last year, after a revenue shortfall forced the cancellation of a scheduled 3 percent raise for state employees and faculty last summer. The others could give the additional raise with their own money.

The budget compromise also would include $1.75 million to raise salaries for the Division of Capitol Police to make them competitive with other law enforcement agencies in the region. Additionally, it would allow the agency to fill vacant positions and add at least six more as it prepares security plans for the General Assembly’s move to the Pocahontas Building later this year.

The pay increases for teachers, faculty and Capitol Police would come on top of the 3 percent raise that the House and Senate had restored for state employees in their versions of the budget, which also would provide a nearly $7,000 increase in starting salary for Virginia State Police and an equal pay hike for current troopers.

“Our No. 1 goal was to evaluate and redirect funds to provide the pay raise that was promised last year to our state employees and faculty, state-supported local employees and teachers,” House Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, said in an interview.

The House and Senate could vote on the proposed budget deal as early as Friday night. Legislative rules require that lawmakers get at least 48 hours to review the decisions by the conference committee that has been working for two weeks to reconcile the two budgets.

“Budget negotiators have completed their work ahead of schedule for the third consecutive year,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, who also is co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Under the proposed compromise, the House moved closer to the Senate’s position on a teacher pay raise, while adding about $34 million in lottery money that would be freed to send to local school divisions without requiring them to match the state money or with restrictions on how they spend it.

The proposal would send about 35 percent of lottery revenues to school divisions with no strings — up from 29 percent — while the rest would be allocated to programs for K-12 education.

The deal includes $32 million for the state’s share of a 2 percent raise for teachers effective Feb. 15, 2018, for the last 4½ months of the fiscal year. However, school divisions would be able to receive their share of that money as early as July for pay hikes that most of them gave last year anyway.

The budget also would include $7.3 million in additional funding for small school divisions, such as Petersburg’s, that have been losing enrollment and the state per-pupil funding that goes with it. The allocation would be based on a five-year look-back on division enrollment in small school divisions.

The proposed deal also would restore about $17 million of the $76 million in funding for higher education institutions that Gov. Terry McAuliffe had cut to address the revenue shortfall in the fiscal year that will begin July 1. Under the plan, no institution would lose more than 1.5 percent of its education and general funding.

The Senate prevailed in securing $3.3 million for a career development program for employees of state-supported local constitutional offices, such as sheriff’s departments, commonwealth’s attorneys, treasurers and commissioners of revenue.

Both budgets already included money for a 2 percent raise for state-supported local employees, such as sheriff’s deputies. They also included money to ease salary compression for deputies and state police that had been eliminated because of the revenue shortfall and then restored by McAuliffe in his proposed budget.

Salary compression is when pay for veteran employees does not keep pace with that of more recent hires.

The House prevailed in restoring more than $3 million of the nearly $4 million that the governor had proposed — and the Senate had eliminated — to improve the state’s balky voter registration system and replace federal election funds that are set to disappear.

The budget deal includes $5 million for supportive housing for people with serious mental illness, as well as $100,000 to enable the State Board of Corrections to investigate suspicious deaths in regional and local jails. The Senate had included the money in its budget, but the House had proposed $2 million for supportive housing and none for the corrections initiative.

The compromise also would include an additional $1.5 million proposed by the House for helping victims of domestic violence. The money would allow the state to receive an additional $6 million in federal funds for the initiative.

In economic development, the budget negotiators restored all of the $4 million that the governor cut from the Inova Global Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Institute in Northern Virginia.

They kept to their plan to restore half of the $15 million that McAuliffe had cut from the GO Virginia economic development initiative.

They also did not back down from restoring $5 million the governor had cut from the $10.2 million appropriation for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s 2019 commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first legislative body in the new world, as well as the arrival of women and Africans to the Jamestown Colony.

The deal did not relieve the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control from having to provide more than $20 million in additional revenue to support spending in the two-year budget.

Nor did it allow the money-producing agency to move ahead with a $104.7 million proposal to build a new warehouse and headquarters.

ABC, poised to become a semi-independent authority next year, wants to replace the aging, crowded complex it occupies now on 21½ acres on Hermitage Road that the Richmond Flying Squirrels and Virginia Commonwealth University are eying for a new baseball stadium.

Instead, ABC would have to produce a plan by Nov. 1 that covers a wide range of options for expanding warehouse capacity that is crucial for generating more sales to support the budget in the future. Those options must include potentially remaining at the same site.

The budget also includes language allowing the state to temporarily close a short section of Bank Street — between North Ninth and North 10th streets — for a pedestrian mall between the Pocahontas Building and the Capitol. The section of the street would close only when the General Assembly is in session while the state razes and replaces the legislature’s current building.

mmartz@timesdispatch.com

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