Prezioso and some lawmakers remain suspicious that judges were trying to pull a fast one with the bill, which skeptical lawmakers have called a backdoor pay raise. Prezioso said the issue needed more study.
State court administrator Steve Canterbury said he "absolutely and categorically" denied attempts to characterize the pension change as a pay raises.
"We did a pay raise bill last year and we never hid the fact we were doing a pay raise bill," Canterbury said.
He said the court and judges in the Judicial Retirement System had both put more money into the system. He said the court itself put money aside when budget times were good and the state was running surpluses. Now that the system is more than fully funded, both the court and the judges could stop putting so much into the retirement plan. Other state employees pay nearly half what judges in the system are asked to pay.
"The mission that they were asked to complete is over," Canterbury said of the judges.
There are a few salary issues the Legislature may still address.
One would level the pay scale for the state's 158 magistrates. Right now, there's a two-tiered pay system. Magistrates in counties with fewer than 8,400 people per magistrate make $51,125, while those in counties with higher populations make $57,500. Magistrates' staff in lower population counties also make less.
The bill would equalize magistrate salaries at $57,500, regardless of county size, and give equal pay for staff, too. The bill passed the House on a mostly party line vote, with Republicans opposed to the plan. It is pending in the Senate.
The change would cost $583,100 a year, and the Supreme Court has the money for the change in its current budget, Canterbury said.
"What's happened as time has gone on is that the complexity of the job has grown and the work level has grown - I would argue especially on the less populated counties' magistrates," Canterbury said.
Each county has at least two magistrates. Kanawha has 10. Canterbury said magistrates in higher population counties can share burdens, like taking turns doing late-night work, while magistrates in smaller counties have to be on call more often. There are also tasks every magistrate has to do that are no less burdensome for magistrates and their staff in the smaller counties.
The need for the bill is particularly acute this year because four counties - Lewis, McDowell, Wetzel and Wyoming - have lost population and would be bumped into the current system's lower tier. Without the bill, magistrates and staff in those counties will earn less money starting next January than they do now even though there work will be essentially the same as it is now.
Prezioso said lawmakers are looking to boost pay for forensic lab workers who analyze evidence for the State Police. Current troubles attracting and retraining lab workers could put court cases on hold, he said.
"That's more of a crisis in the making than anything else," Prezioso said. "Those people are grossly under-compensated."
A third salary bill would allow the head of the State Police to give up to $400 a month in discretionary supplemental pay to some troopers who work more than 189 hours a month.
Even if the bill passes, Lt. R. Patterson, the State Police's legislative liaison, said he's not sure if there is money set aside to pay for the discretionary supplemental pay.
The State Police estimate the change could cost $1.4 million a year if it's fully implemented.