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Budget Battle Hurts State Employees, Taxpayers

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RALEIGH — This year's North Carolina's General Assembly short session is already the longest in history, with no end in sight. While the budget battle wages on using taxpayer money, the debate is costing state employees double.

Lawmakers propose giving teachers and state workers raises; teachers six percent, other workers three percent. Raises could have come months ago, but wrangling on both sides of the aisle has slowed the process.

Thousands of state workers wait for money they say is owed them. Lawmakers are at odds on several issues including repeal of the state's controversial inheritance tax. State employee Hope Thompson just wants her raise.

"It's kind of disappointing that it's not as much as we deserve, cause we do work very hard for what we get paid for," Thompson said.

Wednesday, the Republican controlled House approved the pay raises as part of a bill to cut off the Senate's per diem pay at the end of the year. Where does that leave state workers?

"They should be calling their senators all over the weekend. Right now, the bill's there ready for them to pass," House Speaker Rep. Harold Brubaker said.

Senate leaders say they want to approve the pay raises, but they would not be effective until October 1 at the earliest. Would raises be retroactive?

"Possibly, depending on the language as it's presented. I would say that it should be retroactive," President Pro Tem Sen. Marc Basnight said. "I think that it should. I don't think we should penalize them in any way or any fashion because of our tardiness of being in session."

Barbara McCullers seems to understand.

"I'm just being patient," McCullers said. "Patience is a virtue, so I'm waiting on it, but I will enjoy getting it."


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