House delays pay raise bill for county officials

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia House of Delegates Government Organization Committee voted Friday to postpone discussion of SB 615’s committee substitute, which would provide an ongoing mechanism for county commissioners to allow compensation increases for elected officials every two years.

The bill, sponsored by Senators Trump, Plymale, and Boso, is expected to be back on the agenda on Monday.

Uncertainty about the language quickly became an issue during the meeting. The bill stated officials would automatically receive a pay raise every two years as long as the county could afford the increase, but did not address the lowering of these salaries if the counties eventually could not afford them due to economic changes.

Jan Pest, Marshall County Clerk and president of the West Virginia Association of Counties, told the delegates that all money used for the pay raises would be county funds and that no state funds would be used. Pest said she had worked in her field for over 30 years and had seen three pay raises during that time-each took lobbying the legislature and often took three to four years of lobbying before the increases were put into place.

Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, who had previously voiced his concern about the bill not containing any language about what would happen if a county could no longer afford the automatic pay raises, spoke up again — this time about the legislation not saying anything about a cap on the increases. Nelson said he was worried we could end up with county officials ending up with a 50 percent pay raise.

Nelson made a motion to postpone further discussion of the bill, after it had been altered to include clearer language. The motion passed and more information is expected to come early next week.

COMMENTS