Local Politics

Lawmakers slam lid on lottery workers' higher raises

Posted June 5, 2008 7:53 p.m. EDT
Updated June 5, 2008 10:54 p.m. EDT

— The state House of Representatives unanimously on Thursday passed a budget amendment to treat lottery employees the same as other state workers.

When state lawmakers created the lottery, they made the games and its work force reliant on ticket revenues. That independence allowed lottery managers to award merit raises of about 5 percent this year, well above what most other state workers can expect.

Rep. Ty Harrell, D-Wake County, said the situation “didn’t sit well with any of the parties.”

Harrell offered the new rule, which he said “boils down to fairness.”

“I'm sure that House members are getting phone calls from state employees who are concerned about equity,” said Erica Baldwin, assistant communications director for the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

Pay equity is a longstanding issue in state government. In recent years, teachers have received bigger pay increases than other workers as lawmakers try to move their salaries closer to the national average.

The lottery has struggled to meet revenue projections, but commissioners defend their independent merit pay system.
“It’s a healthy way to pay in a sales organization, which is what the lottery is,” State Lottery Commission Chairman John McArthur said.

Referring to lawmakers, McArthur said, "We'll manage the way they want."

“There is a fairness element to merit pay because you get paid more for doing more. I think in this case, people are being paid more and not really doing more,” Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger said.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, had argued that the amendment deserved consideration, “especially in a year in which other state employees don't have access to that type of money.”

The budget, with the limit on lottery raises, now goes to the Senate, which is supposed to vote in about two weeks. It will then head to a conference committee.