RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Republicans in the state House of Representatives said Friday they will propose pay raises for state employees that are ‘substantially more’ than what the Senate approved last month, but are not giving details yet.
Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) said as the House prepares to take up the state budget, the pay raises are a key issue.
“The biggest thing that’s going to change is looking at some of the salary increases for state employees,” he said. The House wants to do more (and) really, the arguments are going to be about how much.”
Saine said he expects the House to unveil its budget proposal by early August despite the current fiscal year beginning July 1.
Additionally, the Senate recently approved a two-year budget that would give most government workers, including teachers, a 3-percent raise over two years. The budget also includes one-time bonuses.
Furthermore, correctional workers would receive a 7-percent average raise over two years in light of the challenges that the Department of Public Safety has had in filling vacant positions.
We recently reported that four years following the deadly attack at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution, about 30-percent of correctional worker positions are vacant.
Suzanne Beasley, a government relations director for the State Employees Association of North Carolina, said while the proposed raises for correctional officers could help address the staffing issues, she was surprised by the proposed raises for other government workers.
“There’s a ton of one-time money. We’re drowning in cash. So, (I’m) a little surprised it came in as low as it did,” she said.
She continued though, “Better pay will make it easier to entice people to come to work for the state and provide those public services that are crucial for people living in North Carolina.”
Additionally, state leaders recently learned North Carolina is expected to take in approximately $6.5 billion more than expected over the next two years.
Senate Republicans have proposed a series of tax cuts, arguing it was proof the state is taking too much from taxpayers.
The plan would cut personal income taxes for the median household by 37-percent in 2022.
Senate leader Phil Berger (R) said he doesn’t think the state should spend more than what Republicans in the General Assembly previously agreed to spend.
In the fiscal year that began July 1, they proposed spending $25.7 billion and increasing that to $26.6 billion the following year.
“What we are trying to make sure that we do is provide reasonable pay increases for educators and our other state employees while not creating a baseline problem as far as the overall budget,” Berger said.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has called for educators to receive an average 10-percent raise over the next two years.
In 2019, he vetoed the state budget, calling the raises at the time ‘paltry’.
He and Republicans never came to a resolution.
Cooper has recently criticized Senate Republicans for moving forward with their tax cut package and not addressing some of the spending priorities he has outlined.
Saine said even with proposing higher pay raises for state workers, the House still plans to stick to the agreement with the Senate on what the total spending amounts should be over the next two years.
“There’s room to play and shifting a few priorities here and there and figuring out how best to do it, but we think that we can,” Saine said.