Thursday negotiators from the House and Senate agreed on a budget proposal.
Budget conference committees are about compromise. And as the Chairman of the House budget committee Delegate Luke Torian had a role in finding some. "One of the compromises was the senate wanted PPP tax conformity and we were able to accommodate that."
“Tax conformity” would allow businesses to not pay taxes on the Paycheck Protection Program. That could’ve cost the state as much as $500 million in this budget. The Senate proposed capping deductions at $100,000, while the House originally said $25,000.
Torian said agreeing to the Senate’s version allowed House lawmakers to put forward their priorities. "On the House side with the Democrats, we were looking at certainly a pay increase for our teachers," Torian noted.
That proposed raise for teachers is 5%. State employees and State Police will also get raises. An unexpected $730 million surplus also made the salary increases possible.
Lawmakers can vote on the budget Saturday.
Virginia has been playing catch up with teacher salaries. They got a 5% raise in 2019. Last year Governor Ralph Northam proposed another 3% raise, but then the pandemic happened and the raises were dropped.
If you adjust for inflation, Virginia teachers’ salaries have decreased since 2011, according to the National Education Association.
But another unexpected thing is pointing to a raise for teachers this year. The Commonwealth took in $730 million more than it thought it would. Northam asked lawmakers to use the money on teacher raises.
Marynn Dause taught for nine years. Now she’s an executive officer with the Virginia Association of Teachers of English. She says she knows lots of teachers who have trouble living without roommates.
“Teaching is one of the most cognitively, emotionally and professionally demanding jobs there is and you're telling me that professional teachers can't afford their own housing,” asks Dause.
Teaching in the pandemic has been especially challenging, but Dause says that’s not the main reason to give teachers a raise.
“Do we need more money in the pandemic? Maybe? But I think it's more important to highlight we need more money overall,” she says.