House, McCrory team up on new budget bid

Posted June 25, 2014
Updated June 26, 2014

— Gov. Pat McCrory and House leaders are joining forces to try to break a budget stalemate with the Senate.

House leaders rolled out new legislation Wednesday that would essentially serve as a secondary budget proposal, dealing almost exclusively with education spending and teacher and employee pay raises.

House Senior Budget Chairman Nelson Dollar said the measure "shows we value teachers."

"This bill allows us to highlight and focus on education," Dollar, R-Wake, told the House Appropriations Committee. "We know these are the priorities that all chambers support and the governor supports."

The new bill, Senate Bill 3, includes the House's plan for raises for teachers and state employees. Teachers would receive an average 5 percent pay raise, with beginning teachers getting a slightly bigger bump. State employees would receive a $1,000 raise plus benefits, as well as five bonus vacation days. Retirees would receive a 1.44 percent cost-of-living increase. 

Teachers would not be required to give up tenure rights to receive the raises, as the Senate proposed. 

Dollar said the bill, if it passes the House and Senate, would put the raises and other changes into law immediately, taking them off the table for budget negotiations. 

"I believe this would be very helpful to the process," he said.

The measure would keep the 7,000 teaching assistants that the Senate budget cut. It also sets aside money for in-state tuition for military veterans and for the governor's "Career Pathways" program for teacher development. And it includes an additional $1.7 million for the state's private school voucher program for the upcoming year. Tillis staffers say the extra money is a response to a court ruling on the program's costs, and won't be used to expand it.  

The proposal includes one key non-education-related item: $1.7 million for new coal ash regulators.

Dollar said the new bill doesn't rely on projected increases in lottery funding to pay for raises and other recurring spending. Instead, House budget-writers say they "swept" about $140 million in available funds from other sources, including putting less money into reserves and leaving less money in savings.

The plan also depends on more than $360 million in cuts that were included in both the House and Senate budgets. The measure directs the state budget office to put those cuts into effect.  

It also directs the budget office to begin the termination process for any state employee whose position was defunded in either the House or Senate budget. 

Skeptical Democrats asked whether that would make Senate Bill 3 a substitute budget for the bill that currently has the two chambers deadlocked.

"We are modifying an existing underlying budget that is in effect and will be in effect July 1," Dollar said.

Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, pointed out that the existing budget includes additional cuts in 2014-15 to universities and other spending areas. Dollar confirmed those scheduled cuts would be enacted if Senate Bill 3 ends up being the final budget plan. 

McCrory voiced his support for the plan during an afternoon news conference with House Speaker Thom Tillis, State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson and an assortment of educators from across the state.

The governor called the bill "more sustainable and easier to implement" than the previous version.

"I have so much respect for educators, and they understand also some of our balancing needs of meeting Medicaid payments, of meeting transportation payments, of trying to recruit new jobs to North Carolina," McCrory said. "There are a lot of things on our plate, and as we learn and communicate and talk to each other, have conversations with each other, we’re going to have a better future for our students in North Carolina."

Tillis characterized the bill as a consensus measure that fulfills the "education promise" and should garner wide support.

"Anyone who reports there's a big gap between the House and Senate isn't paying attention," he said. "You can have the rhetoric, and you can deal with the rhetoric. But in reality, we're talking about the methodology for determining what the gap is. It is a bridgeable gap."  

No Senate leaders were in attendance at McCrory's news conference. Amy Auth, spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, said none was invited.

Senate Republicans and Democrats were united in their criticism of the plan.

“Today’s news solidifies the Senate’s position that conference committee negotiations need to be open to the public so that two people cannot attempt to control the budget process behind closed doors,” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement. “The Senate will begin holding open conference committee meetings to work out our differences with the House.”

Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue blasted McCrory and Tillis for playing "political games" while the state's education system is in crisis.

"Instead of solving this crisis and offering a serious plan to raise teacher pay to the national average, we've seen gimmicky proposals that range from the pathetically weak to the appallingly inhumane to the downright dishonest," Blue said in a statement. "Now, Gov. McCrory and Thom Tillis have offered a new plan without even consulting the Senate leaders required to pass it."

The measure passed House Appropriations easily and was expected to be debated on the House floor Thursday.


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  • sisu Jun 26, 2014

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    Where in the world did you get the idea that teachers have gotten a raise every year? They stopped receiving the steps about six years ago and I think either last year or the year before got a one time 1.2% raise.

    You are so wrong I can't believe your fingers/thumbs can even type those words.

    I thankfully avoided education like the plague but I have several family members who are in the field. Misinformation is such a dangerous thing.

  • flanneldaddy Jun 26, 2014

    Its all political along party lines, just like the rest of the Unites States. Not so "united" anymore. The Conference Committee to make compromise were selected by Tillis and are all Republican. It is not Bi-Partisan therefore it is really not seeking compromise. If they would look to their hearts and the people they represent all would change. So many Ego's. We need more women to run.

  • affirmativediversity Jun 26, 2014

    Once again the teachers are the 'golden child' and every other state employee and retirees are chump change!
    Its been about 7 years since state employees and retirees have seen ANY kind of raise...meanwhile EVERY ONE OF THOSE YEARS seen an increase for teachers!!!
    And people wonder why NC can't find or keep qualified, good people!!!!!!! (oh, except for the teachers whose biggest worry is "tenure" so they can't be fired!)

  • AppStgrad Jun 26, 2014

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    Actually, what is obvious is that teachers care immensely about their jobs-otherwise they would have walked out long ago, knowing it would mean termination. Teachers care so much about their jobs that they keep coming back even though the majority of them are smart, dedicated, and talented enough to be successful in a myriad of other careers. Their care for children and the future is the hallmark of their dedication. That is what is obvious.

  • recontwice Jun 26, 2014

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    The private education industry is one of mc crory biggest inancial supporters and he must deliver what they paid him for!No public money should be given to any of these schools!!

  • Tony Snark Jun 26, 2014

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    "I thought". You use that term loosely.

  • Goodone2 Jun 25, 2014

    Hi, state employee here. No raise in over 5 years. Nothing. We have had our benifits cut as well as simple day to day expenses such as pens paper and repairs. Can we please just get that little coin they are throwing at us? Im just asking for a bone here. The 5 days off are appreciated, however, any sum of money is better. With the climbing food and gas cost, we just want to stay in the game- This to you from a state employee that loves their job and is not making anything near 40k a year.

  • Eq Videri Jun 25, 2014
    user avatar

    Bad policy, worse politics. Amateur move.

  • sisu Jun 25, 2014

    I fear the whole show today is to put Tillis in the limelight as being a champion of education to help his U.S. Senate campaign.
    What a mess to make an "announcement" without the support of the the NC Senate. I don't like the Senate's plan at all but acting like the "announcement" means something without Senate support appears more like (the lovely large birds with colorful tail feathers) fanning their feathers than any true substance.

    (Apparently you can't use the common aviary term as it won't pass auto-sensor).

  • jlanser Jun 25, 2014

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    If you owe teachers nothing I hope you have your kids in private school.