News: Quick Takes

State employees guaranteed ‘living wage’ in budget proposal

The minimum wage for state employees will rise to $15 an hour if the budget proposed by legislative leaders becomes law.

GOP leaders announced some details of the $23.9 billion General Fund budget for 2018-19 Thursday, May 24, at an impromptu press conference. The briefing featured Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow; senior House appropriator Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake; Senate appropriations co-chairman Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; and perhaps an unexpected guest: Robert Broome, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

Brown said state employees will get an extra $200 million, including:

• A minimum salary of $31,200 for all permanent, full-time state employees.

• A permanent 2-percent raise for all state employees and a one-time 1-percent cost-of-living increase for retirees.

• A raise making State Highway Patrol troopers’ starting pay $44,000 and boosting salaries overall by 8 percent on average. Troopers will reach the top of the pay scale ($64,000) after six years of employment.

• A 4-percent raise for corrections officers working in state prisons. Death benefits for survivors of prison employees will increase from $50,000 to $100,000.

• An extra $20 million to raise salaries at the university system and $24 million for raises at community colleges.

“Our goal here was very simple: To get the best deal possible for state employees and their families and create economic security for those folks who are serving our state,” Broome said.

Broome said the lowest entry-level annual salary for state workers was about $24,000. The raise announced Thursday would be “life-changing money” for those at the bottom of the wage scale.

Brown said legislative leaders would announce more details on teacher compensation in the next few days. The full budget, in the form of a conference committee report, should go before lawmakers just after Memorial Day.