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Lawmakers push to increase State Police pay

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia State Police may get the pay raise they have been calling for, if GOP leaders in the Virginia House and Senate get their way.

House Appropriations Chair Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) and Senate Finance Co-Chairs Sen. Tommy Norment, Jr. (R-James City) and Sen. Emmett Hanger, Jr. (R-Augusta) are backing budget proposals to give state workers a three percent pay raise and increase starting salaries for Virginia State Police.

Jones said, if approved, state employees would see the raise on their July 1st pay check.  The raise would not apply to K-12 teachers or state higher education workers because leaders said most school divisions and universities chose to give raises last year.

Starting pay for a Virginia State Police trooper is $36,207, according to the Virginia State Police job opening website. Twelve months following graduation from the State Police Academy, the salary increases to $40,482.  Officials said during a press conference Thursday, the proposal would move the starting salary to around $43,000 per year.

"Last year we said that addressing state employee pay and addressing the critical needs of the Virginia State Police were our top priority," House Appropriations Chairman Jones said. "Unfortunately, our employees lost the scheduled pay raise due to the failure to meet the 2016 revenue projections, despite the fact that the state’s funding for pay raises for all employee groups was tied to meeting the revenue forecast, teachers and college faculty still received pay raises last year. The reality is that state employees and state police only have the General Assembly to turn to."

Jones said the House and Senate will continue to meet to hammer out a budget they must complete by February 5.

"From the beginning, we have identified our shared goals and collaboratively addressed them," Sen. Norment said. "When you’re confronting a revenue shortfall, there are tough choices with no easy answers. But, I think we’re poised to send a budget agreement to the Governor with strong support from both parties and both chambers."

A spokesman for Governor Terry McAuliffe said no one wanted to get state employees the compensation they deserve more than Governor McAuliffe.

"He will evaluate this proposal carefully as soon as General Assembly leaders announce how they will pay for it," the governor's spokesman said. "He is open to proposals to increase state employee pay, as long as they do not require cuts to core services of government or threaten the structural balance of the budget and Virginia's AAA bond rating."

The Governor's office had promised a 3% raise of state employees last year; however, they were taken off the table after revenue shortfalls led to a projected $1.2 billion shortfall.  Jones said Wednesday they found a way to fund the raises, although he said those details were not publicly available yet.

This is a developing story.