News: CJ Exclusives

Teachers, State Employees Get Raises in House Budget

Retirees also would get COLAs not included in governor's budget plan

State employees would get a 2 percent pay increase plus a one-time $500 bonus while average teacher salaries would get a boost to $50,000 over the next two years under House budget leaders’ proposal.

“We are also providing much-needed raises for our state employees who have done yeoman’s work over the past several years,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, senior chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said.

“The teacher raise would average 4.1 percent,” Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union said.

In addition, state retirees would get a 1.6 percent cost of living adjustment.

The salary increases are part of the $22.2 billion general fund budget approved on Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee. It now goes before the full House membership.

The budget proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory focused on one-time bonuses rather than permanent raises for most state employees.

While advocates for employees and retirees were glad to see the House budget include the increases, they said that it’s not enough to account for inflation in recent years.

“SEANC is pleased to see the House, unlike the governor, recognized the need for a base pay increase for state employees who have lost significant ground to the cost of living the the past few years,” said Ardis Watkins, director of government relations for the State Employees Association of North Carolina. “If the Senate doesn’t improve on the House budget, a state employee in June of 2017 will be making only 2 percent more than they were in July of 2014.”

Richard Rogers, executive director of the N.C. Retired Governmental Employees’ Association, had similar thoughts on the cost of living adjustment for retirees.

“For 30 years, COLAs have been provided pretty regularly and they’ve kept pace with inflation,” Rogers said. “For the past eight years, we’re kind of behind.”

Rogers said that the cumulative effect can set back retirees whose pension benefits could be eroded by inflation.

“We do appreciate the House putting it in,” Rogers said. “We think that’s a really good start.”

House Minority Leader Larry Hall, D-Durham, said more needs to be done for teacher pay.

“I think we can all acknowledge we’re really not on the path that we need to go as of yet in regards to our teacher and educator pay,” Hall said. “We’re going to have to do more and do better.”

Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, said lawmakers are making continued progress on teacher pay.

“Last year we gave the largest increase in average teacher pay in the nation; it was 6.5 percent,” Blackwell said. “We are on a path that we recognize that if North Carolina is going to have students that are educated to meet their own needs and the state’s needs for the kind of jobs that are going to be — and frankly already are — out there, we’ve got to have the best possible professional teaching corps in this state.

That means retaining teachers, recruiting more teachers, and making the profession attractive, Blackwell said.

The House compensation package also provides:

  • experience-based step pay increases for assistant and deputy clerks of court, magistrates, and State Highway Patrol troopers
  • $1 million for salary increases for State Bureau of Investigation and Alcohol Law Enforcement agents.
  • money to continue increasing pay for correctional officers.
  • a 3 percent salary increase for assistant district attorneys and assistant public defenders.