RALEIGH, N.C. — For years, employees of the state of North Carolina have watched the cost go up for medical care, gas and food while their salaries have stayed the same. Now, after three denials, it looks like state workers may finally get a much-needed pay raise.
State workers have received extra vacation time and one-time bonuses, but they have not had a cost-of-living increase.
"We're the most important resource the state has, but we have not been treated like we're very important, because pay raises have not been very high on their list of priorities," state employee Shirley Bell said.
With revenue running ahead of expectations, Gov. Mike Easley and state lawmakers from both parties are optimistic a raise can be included in the budget in the upcoming short session.
"We're very thankful that after some tough economic times our state has gone though, we're beginning to turn the corner," said Rep. David Miner, R-Wake County.
Lawmakers are considering a 2 percent pay raise. The State Employees Association is pushing for 5 percent.
"Those employees buy goods and services, they go out and eat when they can afford it. So, that money is a direct benefit to North Carolina's economy," said Dana Cope of the state Employees Association.
For Bell, it is a matter of morale.
"There's nothing like getting money," she said. "That's one way you can show your appreciation."
The governor's office said a raise will be included in the budget proposal he sends to the Legislature. The amount will depend on the state's revenue picture, which will become clearer after April numbers come in.