State employee raises debated as NC projects surplus

Gay marriage override vote in NC House delayed (Image 1)

Budget writers in the North Carolina House of Representatives are putting their finishing touches on their $21 billion budget proposal.

On Thursday, the public got a sense of where the Republican leaders want to spend the money as committees met to discuss the budget.

A big change is the fact that the state is now projecting a $400 million budget surplus, not a shortfall as previously forecasted.

The question is what the state will do with that money.

Among many items, House Republicans are talking about giving state employees a raise and putting more funding into K-12 education, including textbook funding.

“I think it would be very hard for a state employee to understand not getting an increase after so many years of not keeping up with the cost of living in a year where the governor has announce we’re doing great,” said Ardis Watkins, direct of government relations for the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

“It’s a different process because we’ve never had any money before,” said Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Republican from Johnston County. “We were always trying to see who we could cut and now we have at least a little money and we’re trying to do better in those areas that we cut.”

Some of the items being discussed in committees:

· $50 million for textbooks and digital resources

· More than $26 million for drivers education

· Using $89 million in state revenues, instead of using lottery funds, for teachers’ assistants

But Rep. Larry Hall, the House minority leader, raised some concerns.

“It’s a projection. It’s not real money,” Hall said. “If it does come to pass that there’s more revenue, we know who paid it – the poor citizens of North Carolina paid it. The citizens who needed it the most were denied it.”

Several Democrats made the point that the $400 million is just a projection.

The House is expected to release its complete proposal early next week.

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