House finally releases pay details in spending plan

Posted May 31

— After several days of trickling out portions of its 2017-18 budget proposal, House leaders on Wednesday revealed details of pay increases for teachers and state workers.

The House Appropriations Committee was meeting in a marathon session to review the 356-page budget bill – and the 480-page breakdown of how money is being moved around – and consider dozens of amendments to the spending plan before it is debated and voted on by the full House on Thursday and Friday.

"This is a sound, responsible budget, one that addresses the needs of our citizens while moving this state forward," Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, the chief budget writer in the House, said of the $22.9 billion plan.

The House earmarks $181 million for raises for teachers and school administrators, compared with about $150 million in the Senate budget.

Average teacher salaries would go up about 3.3 percent in the coming year under the House plan, which is lower than the Senate, but teachers would get about a 9.5 percent raise over two years in both plans. Gov. Roy Cooper called for 5 percent raises in each of the next two years.

"I think this sends a signal to teachers and state employees that they are truly valued," Dollar said.

While lawmakers have focused on boosting salaries of beginning teachers in recent years, the House budget would give the largest bumps to teachers with 16 to 24 years in the classroom. It also would provide a $2,500 bonus to teachers with at least 27 years' experience who sign a two-year contract.

"Veteran teachers are treated better than in the Senate budget, but it still doesn't go to the level of the governor," said Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. "It also leaves several folks with very small increases that, when you take in the increase in health insurance premiums, they'll actually be making less than last year."

Meanwhile, state employees would get a $1,000 raise in each of the next two years, along with an extra five days of leave. State retirees would get a one-time 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment to their pension checks. The Senate budget doesn't include any COLA for retirees and gives state workers a raise of 1.5 percent or $750, whichever is greater.

Ardis Watkins, director of government relations for the State Employees Association of North Carolina, scoffed at Dollar's assessment that the proposed budget values state workers.

"Every single budget so far has shown that state employees are not a priority," Watkins said. "There's choices being made here, and state employees are just not that choice."

"We are continuing to work on the issue (of improving employee pay). We believe that we need to do more work," Dollar responded.

"You have to put your money where your mouth is and show your thankfulness. The verbal thanks are appreciated by state employees, but what they tell us is they've got to feed their families," Watkins said. "In a time of great surplus in the state budget – and it's the third year of really good surpluses – if state employees are not going to matter now, they're never going to matter."

Most budget tweaks fly through

During the morning session, many lawmakers expressed concern about state spending for mental health, such as crisis beds designed to keep mentally ill people out of hospital emergency rooms and local jails to efforts.

"We understand there's a problem here. We understand the state has to step up and do more," said Rep. Chris Malone, R-Wake, chairman of the Health and Human Services Appropriations subcommittee.

Yet, few of the 60 or so amendments taken up Wednesday afternoon had to do with mental health. Most made technical adjustments to the bill or moved small pots of money for pet projects, and they flew through with little debate.

A handful of amendments generated considerable debate, such as using road maintenance money for a pilot program for charter school transportation (passed), cutting school voucher funds to help school districts deal with mandatory class size reductions (failed), nixing the proposed move of the state Human Relations Commission (failed) and shifting rural grant funds to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for legal fees to challenge the federal Waters of the U.S. provision (passed).

Dollar said he believes the overall budget will make North Carolina more competitive.

"We're a state that competes in a global marketplace, and I believe we're good at it," he said. "This budget, on behalf of this House, furthers that competition to put our people in the best position globally to realize their dreams, to be able to seize their opportunities."

But Cooper said the House could have done better.

"This House budget shortchanges our state at a time when we don't have to. It falls far short of what is needed on education and jobs, and I urge the House to do better for our families," Cooper said in a statement.


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  • Theo Bishop Jun 1, 12:39 p.m.
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    We as people needs to watch and do homework on who we are voting for. No one thought we would be in the mess that they are putting (NC) in. All they care about is lining there own pockets and power control for the rich.

  • Victor Cruz-Saez Jun 1, 5:49 a.m.
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    View quoted thread

    For the same reason that the feds will not allow it with SSN. It is a steady source of income for the government.

    However, the NC retirement system is one of the few state systems that is soluble.

  • John Barbara May 31, 7:16 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    Then there should be no complaints about removing taxpayer support for the retirement scheme and allow those people to shift their contributions to a 401k type of plan that is beyond the control of state government.

  • Victor Cruz-Saez May 31, 7:11 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    John, all state/county/local government employees have 6% of their pays deducted for their retirement. So yes, we did pay for our pension.

  • John Barbara May 31, 5:30 p.m.
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    You're free to resign your state position and get an actual job in the productive sector. There is no mystery to this. If you're willing to accept a position with the state instead of actually being employed in the private/voluntary sector what gets dropped in your bank account is at the mercy of politicians. And it is in the best interests of the victims of the state's tax scheme to minimize the amount of money stolen from them as well as the financial liability (pensions, health care, etc...) from having bodies on the payroll of the state.

  • Jill Stephenson May 31, 4:39 p.m.
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    I am a retired State Employee. I don't know why the public thinks State employees are not worth a pay rate increase. My employees worked hard and at times did the job of two people. I myself worked through most all breaks and took only 30 minutes lunch breaks to complete my daily work.
    If this is from dealing with lic. plate agency or buying sticker for plates or etc at different location, you need to remember these are not STATE employees but contracting agency and these as a rule change with the party in office. I know for it was my job to go into the system and change the agency's name.
    I get weary of hearing teachers, teachers...for I see a decline in the kids in school and coming out of school....so which is it...the teachers are worse now or the the kids, parent don't care, if that be the case, why do teachers need a raise. Seems someone if failing at their job.

  • John Barbara May 31, 4:38 p.m.
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    No, that does not make sense. Seeing how everything given to persons on the state payroll has been taken/stolen from its rightful owner, what makes sense is minimizing the value of loss for the people who actually earned the money.

    I'd prefer to see, at worst, a continuation of the pay freeze. Better, an elimination of the state pension plan moving towards a 401k style system. Best, headcount and payscale reductions added to the elimination of the pension.

  • Charles Tew May 31, 3:32 p.m.
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    Thanks folks for the enlightening. State employees get lip service or was that Vaseline.

  • Kyle Clarkson May 31, 2:48 p.m.
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    When the state had a deficit, state employees' salaries were frozen, and career banding increases were terminated. Here we are, 9 years later, and nothing has changed.

    Since the state has a surplus this year, doesn't make sense to give state employees a fair raise for once!? Teachers have had an average 16% raise in the past 3 years, State employees, 2.5%.

  • Jimmy Jones May 31, 2:35 p.m.
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    How can someone pay bills and buy food with 5 days of "extra" leave? State employees keep getting the shaft.