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General Assembly Deals with Lag Pay Issue

By Ralph Byers, director of government relations

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 16 - January 16, 1997

The 1997 General Assembly convened on January 8 to consider legislation and changes to the biennial budget adopted in 1996.

One of the major items on the legislature's agenda was to address the so-called "lag-pay" issue, which involves creating a lag between the day upon which state employees are paid and the last day they worked.

On Friday, Jan. 10, a proposal was introduced into both the House and the Senate to make changes in the lag-pay plan adopted last year. Under the new proposal, pay days would remain on the first and sixteenth of each month, and employee raises for 1997 would be fully realized.

A six-day lag would be implemented in the month of June by redefining pay periods; a transition payment would ensure that no pay is lost by employees and pay dates remain the same as before. This proposal is expected to be adopted during the week of January 13.

The budget proposed by Governor George Allen did not make any changes to last year's proposed 2-percent pay raises for faculty and staff members, although the General Assembly indicated last year that these were intended to be "placeholder" amounts. That is, greater raises were intended once the state's 1997-98 revenue situation was known in more detail. Most observers expect the General Assembly to increase the 2-percent amount.

Allen's budget contained little new funding for higher education. The major item recommended was $1.3 million in operating funds and $4.4 million in capital outlay to help Virginia Military Institute prepare for the admission of women. Certain institutions lost funding due to failure to meet enrollment projections; the net change for all of higher education was an increase of about $100,000. Virginia Tech received $350,000 for asbestos removal.

The Council of Presidents of the state-supported institutions of higher education are once again submitting a "unified amendment" to address the needs of higher education. Last year's unified amendment asked for $400 million in operating funds for the biennium--this is the amount that would be required to fund Virginia institutions at the average per-student funding of the Southeastern states. In response to this request, $200 million was appropriated, and this year's amendment will request the remaining $200 million.

Major items to be addressed in the $200 million include faculty salaries, student financial aid, funding for technology, and funds for high-priority issues at each institution. Endorsed by the Business Higher Education Council, this request would continue movement of faculty salaries back to the 60th percentile for each institution over the next three years.

For information on activities of the General Assembly, contact the Office of Government Relations at 1-7111.