State News

Senate Dems drop proposed teacher pay raise

Posted May 11, 2010 2:27 p.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2010 7:06 p.m. EDT

— Senate Democrats said Tuesday that their budget proposal will contain neither pay raises for teachers nor a bonus for all state employees to pay them back for last year's furlough.

Gov. Beverly Perdue sought the items in her budget proposal last month, but Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight said that both would be left out of the spending plan the Senate rolls out next week.

Both the House and the Senate reconvene Wednesday for the so-called "short session."

Perdue wanted lawmakers to restore the longevity-based salary increase for teachers suspended last year due to the bad economy. She also wanted to give employees and teachers a bonus equal to 0.5 percent of their salaries.

Basnight, D-Dare, said it's hard to justify pay increases when the unemployment rate is so high. He and other top Democrats said they will use the money Perdue earmarked for pay raises to keep more teachers in the classroom, keep class sizes down and drastically reduce discretionary cuts.

The lawmakers agreed with the governor that they must place an emphasis on economic growth and job creation initiatives.

Senate leaders said they might raise some fees to improve the state's transportation infrastructure, but they plan to fill most of the projected $788 million deficit for the 2010-11 fiscal year with a mix of federal stimulus dollars and cuts.

The challenge, they said, is to make sure they don't cut too deep.

"You just got to be careful you don't have unintended consequences and long-range consequences," Senate Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt said. "We can all suffer a little pain for a short period of time to get through this, but you just try not to make decisions that damage your ability to grow out of this when times turn around for us."