Teachers and service personnel celebrate the enactment of 5% pay raises

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTRF) - Teachers in West Virginia are preparing to head back to their classrooms after a nine-day statewide work stoppage finally comes to an end with the promise of a five percent raise across the board.

It took republicans and democrats setting aside a lot of their differences, to make it happen. The mood was more celebration and less protest at the West Virginia State Capitol on Tuesday. This came after lawmakers approved a 5-percent pay raise for all state workers, not just teachers.

"Everybody deserves that 5-percent raise. But we weren't coming down or backing down until they did this right," said McDowell County teacher, Zanetta Stallworth.

Hardy County teacher, Leigh Saville said, "I am so excited that we were able to get 5-percent for all state employees. That is what we wanted from the beginning- the same for everyone."

Cheers also erupted in the galleries which were packed with teachers and supporters.

"Oh, I think it means a great deal to our children. I know our children are anxious to get back to the classroom. And I know every teacher downstairs in the hallway right now is anxious to get back to be with their children," said West Virginia Senator, Bob Beach of Monongalia County.

But Republican leaders cautioned everyone that budget cuts would be used to fund pay raises and not new taxes.

"By making these cuts we know with absolute certainty, that that funding will be there so there's a lot of hard cuts there," said Senate Majority Leader, Ryan Ferns.

West Virginia Senator, Craig Blair of Berkley County said, "It could be coming from Medicaid. It could come from general services. A lot of it came from tourism and commerce."

A lot of lawmakers are worried.

"Medicaid is of grave concern. And certainly we'll be watching that," said West Virginia Senator, Bob Plymale of Wayne County.

The nine-day strike is now over and it is now up to individual counties to decide what days need to be made up.

Governor Jim Justice is asking for flexibility.

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