Senate approves $21.1B budget deal

Posted July 31, 2014
Updated August 1, 2014

— The state Senate gave final approval early Friday to a $21.1 billion compromise spending plan for the year, despite complaints from teachers and Democrats that legislative leaders' claims about pay raises are inflated.

Senators voted 33-10 in favor of the budget without any debate, following a 32-13 preliminary vote Thursday evening. The House was expected to hold its first of two required votes on the budget later Friday.

The legislation includes $282 million for teacher pay raises, a sum Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown called "the largest dollar increase in state history." 

"The priority this session was teacher pay," Brown said. "We felt like it was important to move the state toward the middle of the nation."

Teacher groups have complained in recent days that longevity pay given to teachers with more than 10 years of experience was rolled into the raises, so the pay increases weren't as large as Republican lawmakers said.

"Once again, teachers are asked to give up something they've earned to get something we should be giving them anyway," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake.

Sen. Dan Soucek, R-Watauga, countered by calling the raises a "more efficient format" for handling teacher pay. Instead of waiting till the end of the school year for a longevity bonus, he said, teachers would receive the extra money in each paycheck, giving them more money faster.

Republican-led legislatures have increased education spending for four straight years, said Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, adding that he was tired of "the drivel, the whining and the crying" from Democrats about the budget.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, was even more blunt, telling Democrats, "You're either misinformed, or you're uninformed," by arguing that the 7 percent average teacher raises don't amount to support for education.

Under the budget, other state employees will receive a $1,000 raise plus an additional five vacation days, which Brown says averages out to a 2.3 percent raise. However, retirees will receive only a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment, and teaching assistants and other school workers will receive only a $500 raise.

The plan pays for the raises by cutting Department Health and Human Services programs and dipping into the state's savings reserve. 

Democrats said the proposal doesn't improve North Carolina's per-pupil spending and cuts safety-net services to low-income families, at-risk children and Medicaid patients.

"We can do better, we should do better, and we must do better," said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham.

Stein related the story of Portia Gibbs, a woman who died in Belhaven last week while waiting for emergency medical help. The hospital there closed the week before due to financial problems.

"You're hurting hospitals and other providers" with additional cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates, he said. "You all are inflicting damage, and it's time to stop it."

Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, conceded that Medicaid provider rates were cut and that eligibility for disabled and elderly assistance will be limited for future applicants. But he said lawmakers are frustrated by how much of the state’s funds have to go to Medicaid every year, instead of to improving education and economic development.

"We are not done on Medicaid," Hise said, "but I believe we have held this budget within our means for the first time since I got here."

Democrats argued that Republicans unnecessarily restricted the state's means by cutting taxes last year. Most of the benefit of those tax cuts, in dollar terms, went to wealthy people and corporations, which saw the steepest rate cuts.

"The best social program for folks is a job," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said to close the 90-minute debate. "More people today are working in North Carolina than ever before. That's a pretty good social program."


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  • dbarb95059 Aug 2, 2014

    I will remember this in November!!

  • Tom Boswell Aug 1, 2014
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    Oh you are right because the recession in 2008 only hit North Carolina.

  • Doug Pawlak Aug 1, 2014
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    What is? I can prove everything I claim unlike "fjsmss2099" who tries to mislead.

    You may want to read the history of teacher raises in NC on page 15 (notice how theres a raise every year prior to 2009 under democrats?):


    Democrats were in power until the 2010-2011 budget. Notice how there's a whole bunch of 0%'s under republican rule and only one pitiful 1.2% raise? Do you?

    Republican override of Perdue's veto in 2011 (trying to claim that this is a democrat budget is a complete lie):


    And again they override her veto:(2012)


  • Doug Pawlak Aug 1, 2014
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    He's still trying to mislead and I've corrected him on this before even factoring in the recession. He neglects the very important fact that republicans took over in 2010. It was their budgets in 2010-2012 that dropped us so low. When democrats were in control starting in 2002-2003 (raise of 1.8%), they gave a raise every year if you allow for the STEP pay increases. They reached a high of 8% in 2006-2007 (hit national avg. in pay) and a last raise of 4% in 2008-2009. In 2009-2010 pay was frozen under democrats. 2010-2011 to the present were entirely republican budgets which maintained that freeze and in which he tries to include as democratic budgets because Perdue was governor until 2013. He ignores the GA override of her vetoes of their last 2 budgets.

    Page 15 gives a history of teacher raises.


  • joycejunior Aug 1, 2014

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    The same reason any other job gives out raises. In theory, "proving" that you should get paid more in education sounds good. The idea of merit pay is nothing new and its been tried for many years now(at least until they stopped funding it). Now how can you fairly measure a music teacher against a Social Studies teacher? How can you fairly compare a class of 35 unmotivated math students versus a class of 17 very motivated math students? What about a science class of 30 students with 10 discipline issue students and 6 special ed students in it compared to an art teacher with 20 students with no issues? Who is the better teacher and how do you measure it?

  • beachview82 Aug 1, 2014

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    Sadly the teacher 'hating' attitude has been created by it's own- yes alot of responsibility is placed on a teacher, they all knew/know that going into the profession. If they want to flee to other states who pay better, so be it, on the flip side of that there are a large number of teachers here who have 'fled' from other states. The future workforce responsibility should lie at home, which is where all foundation responsibilities should be, not at school that is a new can of worms....

  • Ashley Moore Aug 1, 2014
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    To all those teacher haters... Who else babysit your kids for free? Who else gets blamed for childrens' failures when really it is the home/community that's failing the kids? The hunger documentary on WRAL showed a child who has difficulty in school because she is hungry... Yet society blames the teacher for the difficulty? There are far more teacher-hating attitudes than there are other state employee-hating ones. Your jobs ARE important, but the future workforce responsibility is put on the teachers.

  • snowblindkid Aug 1, 2014

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    That is the other issue they think they are to good to dig a ditch, flip burgers, wash dishes. Titled to a better job than what they can get to stand on there own feet and support them self. Its not what jobs are not here its what jobs are here that they think they are better than. Not everyone can seat behind a desk, it has to be made, the building has to be built, around the building the plants have to be planted. you can fill in in between each of these step and see how many jobs are here china cannot do it all from china.

  • Joseph Smith Aug 1, 2014
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    A bloated wasteful budget.

  • ericsgrowing Aug 1, 2014

    People complain about everything.