For close to 90,000 North Carolina state workers who process the state's taxes, fix the roads and care for prison inmates, the new fiscal year brings no pay raise. Most will get a one-time $550 bonus plus two extra weeks of vacation. That time translates into 3.8 percent of a worker's salary, but it does not come in a paycheck.
"It'd be nice to have a real raise. It's kind of hard to spend 80 hours on food and groceries, but you do what you can," state employee Joe Noonan said. "The way things are with the economy, it's nice to have a job at this point."
Sherry Melton, of the State Employees Association, said the extra vacation looks good on paper for budget writers.
"I think state lawmakers are just trying to throw state employees a bone," she said. "It simply doesn't cost as much as a pay raise costs."
Melton said many employees hold onto extra vacation to beef up their retirement benefits. Others cannot even take the time because of staff shortages. Prison officers, for instance, are heavily restricted in what vacation they can take.
The only way the benefit turns into cash is if an employee leaves state government. For many, the time off is beneficial for other reasons.
"Unfortunately, it will benefit a lot of state employees in that they will have more time off to work their second and third jobs," Melton said.
The one-time extra vacation does not impact teachers and state troopers in lower pay grades. They received pay raises under separate contracts.
Comparing state workers to the private sector, many businesses have laid-off workers, however labor statistics show private businesses are doling out raises of 3.5 percent on average.
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