State employee bonuses to arrive in election run-up

Posted October 4, 2016

This is a shot of the entrance area to the N.C. Legislative Building.

— State employees will get promised one-time bonuses in their October paychecks, the Office of State Human Resources announced in a memo Monday, prompting some to speculate if the timing might not have political significance.

A single 0.5 percent lump-sum bonus, as well as any performance bonuses, will arrive for most state employees at the end of October, timing that puts it squarely in the middle of North Carolina's early voting period and less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 Election Day.

Critics of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory say the pay bumps appear to be aimed at currying the favor of North Carolina's more than 62,000 full-time state workers when they go to the polls.

"It's too little too late for McCrory with state employees," said Ardis Watkins, the chief lobbyist for the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

"They've not been part of any Carolina Comeback," she added, naming one of McCrory's signature campaign themes.

A McCrory campaign spokesman denied the timing of the raises has anything to do with politics.

"This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the success of Governor McCrory's policies which have helped to grow the economy, impose fiscal responsibility on state government and deliver major budget surpluses that can be used to invest in education, teachers, state employees, transportation and other key priorities," spokesman Ricky Diaz said.

McCrory faces Democrat Roy Cooper and Libertarian Lon Cecil in this fall's campaign. Recent polling averages show McCrory trailing Cooper in the contest.

The state budget signed by McCrory included both a 1.5 percent pay increase as well as two sets of one-time bonuses.

According to the memo, signed by Interim Human Resources Director Paula Woodhouse, employees on the job as of Sept. 1 will be eligible for the 0.5 percent lump-sum bonuses. For a state worker who makes $40,000, roughly the state government average, that would be a $200 bonus.

Qualifying employees who have received the proper evaluations will receive an additional one-time $475 payment if they were rated "meets expectations" or $700 if they were rated "exceeds expectations."

Those bonuses were promised as part of the budget that passed this summer. Budget writers originally projected the extra payments would arrive in December in time for Christmas.

"If there were an election every month, teachers and state employees would be really riding high," said Dave Miranda, a spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party. "Unfortunately, Governor McCrory treats paying these employees as an election-year gimmick."

McCrory's government office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Diaz called the accusation "ridiculous" and said he didn't know about the bonus memo until asked about it by WRAL News.

"Compare our state's success to what we're seeing in Virginia, where under Roy Cooper-style big government policies, they have a $1.5 billion budget shortfall that's forcing their governor to make drastic cuts to programs and cancel promised pay increases for teachers," Diaz said.

Asked about the timing of the bonuses, Cooper campaign spokesman Ford Porter said, "There is no doubt that state employees deserve a bonus. But state employee and teacher pay should be more than just a political bargaining chip. We need a Governor with a real plan to offer competitive pay for our state employees and teachers every year and not just the month before an election."


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  • Susan Eaton Oct 4, 2016
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    this "bonus" was in lieu of a merit increase. Speaking of which, supervisors in state government were told they were not allowed to give anyone ratings that would result in a merit based increase as it would not be accepted by higher ups. Great pretense, eh? They approved merit increases for the "top performers" then made sure there were no top performers to make them have to pay out.

  • Steven Cousler Oct 4, 2016
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    I am a registered Democrat, but a fiscal conservative. I have an issue with 'carte blanche' bonuses for government employees. Bonuses should be very selective - to retain critical skills, compensate for difficult duty, etc. They should not be something provided to government employees on a regular basis. Government employees enjoy work stability, job security, and benefit programs far above the private sector in most cases. That should be their 'bonus'. Not a check that comes out of the pocket of private sector folks who risk so much more. I have no issue with merit increases, COLA raises, promotions, etc. But to expect a bonus check every year for just showing up - is a bit much.

  • Lance Boyle Oct 4, 2016
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    Paying for votes is OK as long as it is the GOP doing it.

  • Judy Loftin Oct 4, 2016
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    I don't care when my check comes, I will vote for McCrory anyway.

  • William Willets Oct 4, 2016
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    Just the same as insurance refunds (Insurance Commissioner) and, more importantly, class action lawsuit settlements (Attorney General). So which is it people? All or none! Opinions expressed here are solely my own and do not represent the State of North Carolina.

  • Cynthia Vinson Oct 4, 2016
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    Too little too late, "did not meet expectations" on the part of this administration or the current body of legislatures. What's done is done, now it is my turn!

  • Aiden Audric Oct 4, 2016
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    Bahahaha. I was thinking the exact same thing!

    He definitely takes the citizens of this state for fools.

    Any activity like this in October is the Political Aristocracy tossing coins to the poor as they stroll through the streets for praise and approval. They've already made all their deals behind closed doors - just need to seal up "the vote".

  • Paul Maxwell Oct 4, 2016
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    Well, he could have hand-delivered them with a plate of cookies...

  • Mike Slawter Oct 4, 2016
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    In my many years as an employee of the State of NC, our bonuses-whether monetary of extra time off, and pay raises came with the October check. Even in non-election years. And before you start throwing mud, I'm a dem.

  • Buster Brown Oct 4, 2016
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    Come on people---get real---McCrory no more had any thing to do with the release timing of these bonuses than you or I did. Please grow up.