News: CJ Exclusives

2017 state budget: Public employee compensation

While teacher salaries generally dominate employee benefit discussions during budget debates, other state employees stand to receive higher pay. But the House, Senate, and Gov. Roy Cooper all have different notions about how much to increase compensation.

Cooper’s budget includes an across-the-board salary increase of 2 percent or $800, whichever is higher. His budget sets aside $203 million each year for those raises, plus $78 million the first year to give every permanent, full-time state employee a $500 bonus. The Senate budget funds a pay raise for most employees of $750, or 1.5 percent, whichever is greater. The House budget includes a $1,000 raise for most state employees in each of the two years in the budget cycle, costing $181 million the first year and $362 million the second.

Other budget highlights include:

• Cooper’s budget includes a one-time, 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for retirees. The House budget includes a one-time, 1.6 percent retiree supplement. The Senate does not offer a retiree bonus.

• The governor proposes $82.7 million in overall retirement benefit increases for teachers and state employees in the first year of the budget cycle and $76.1 million in the second year. The Senate budget includes $37.6 million the first year and $177.1 million the second year. The House adds $91.8 million the first year and $177.3 million the second year.

• All three budgets would increase total employer premiums for State Health Plan coverage by 4 percent each year.

• The Senate budget cuts retiree medical benefits for new hires. The governor and House do not. This wouldn’t cost the state anything initially.

• State employees would get five extra paid leave days in the House budget, a potential added cost of $220 million. The Senate and governor don’t include this item.

• Both the House and Senate spend $3.9 million the first year and $7.8 million the second year to increase minimum salaries for all positions under a new classification and compensation system. The governor would add $16 million each of the two years.

• All three budgets add $5 million each year to the Salary Adjustment Fund. The fund gives higher compensation to candidates for hard-to-fill positions.

• The governor’s budget includes $7 million to allow law enforcement officers to retire with full benefits at any age after 25 years of service. Neither the Senate nor the House make that change.