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Senate budget has pay raises, funds for salary parity in law enforcement

February 22, 2016 | Virginia News

By MICHAEL MARTZ | Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Senate Finance Committee on Sunday adopted a two-year budget that would give state employees, state-supported local employees, college faculty and teachers a 2 percent raise this year.

The proposal also would include $12.3 million to help state police and local sheriff’s departments keep the salaries of veteran employees ahead of those of new hires.

For John W. Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs Association, the proposal represents a pleasant choice to compare with a budget plan adopted by the House Appropriations Committee. Its plan would give state employees, including state-supported deputies, a 3 percent raise this year but eliminate the money Gov. Terry McAuliffe originally proposed to help sheriff’s departments with salary parity.

“I’ll have to count the money,” Jones said Sunday after hearing dueling budget presentations by the General Assembly money committees.

As the assembly’s chambers prepare to adopt competing budgets on Thursday, legislators and legions of lobbyists will be busy trying to calculate where their best interests lie among the spending plans proposed by McAuliffe, the House and the Senate with about three weeks remaining in the session.

All of the spending plans focus on restoring funding for K-12 public education; suppressing tuition increases for higher education; boosting services for mentally ill or addicted Virginians; and providing incentives for new business investments and academic research to support them.

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Juvenile corrections
Similarly, neither budget includes the $90.5 million in bonds McAuliffe sought to replace two juvenile correctional centers with smaller facilities, although both committees generally support the effort to transform the juvenile justice system and reinvest operating savings in community programs to reduce the likelihood of youths returning to incarceration.

Their competing bond packages — more than $1.7 billion for the Senate and $1.5 billion for the House — include money to begin planning for a new juvenile correctional center proposed in Chesapeake in tandem with a new juvenile detention center for the city. The new facility most likely would replace the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center in Powhatan County.

Both bond proposals represent significantly less spending than sought by McAuliffe, who proposed a $2.4 billion capital plan.

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State maintenance
One major difference between the budget proposals is how they would fund maintenance of state buildings and equipment. The Senate wants to use cash, as the governor also proposed, but the House proposes to use bonds instead and redirect the cash to pay off $189.5 million in deferred contributions to the Virginia Retirement System for state employee pensions.

By paying off the pension debt six years early, the House would fund a 3 percent raise for state employees, college faculty and state-supported local employees this year, rather than the 2 percent proposed by McAuliffe in the second year of the budget.

The House plan also would reserve about $28 million for a potential 1 percent raise in the second year, pending the findings of a retirement and workforce commission proposed by House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford. It keeps McAuliffe’s proposal for a 2 percent teacher raise in the second year.

The Senate plan would accelerate pay raises for state employees, faculty, state-supported local employees and teachers to Dec. 1.

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