RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s recommended state budget adjustments would give permanent pay raises to most teachers — some reaching $5,000 — but only one-time bonuses to most rank-and-file state workers.
McCrory, making public Friday more details of his proposal he’ll present to legislators next week as they return for their annual work session, wants to spend $22.3 billion next year, or 2.8 percent above current-year spending, State Budget Director Drew Heath said.
“This isn’t our money, it’s the people’s money and we ought to look at every way we can to make sure that we improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of how we spend that money,” McCrory said at a news conference at North Carolina National Guard Headquarters.
There are no tax or fee increases in his budget, but there are also no proposed tax cuts, which some fellow Republicans in the General Assembly want. The House and Senate will write and pass their own budget bills and reach a final compromise they’ll want McCrory to sign before they adjourn this summer.
The entire proposal wasn’t released. The governor earlier gave sneak peeks to his education and health requests for the second year of the two-year budget approved last September. For example, McCrory has said his proposal would raise the average public school teacher salary above $50,000 and give them 3.5 percent average bonuses. After Friday’s event, McCrory’s office provided more details on how he’d get there.
All current teachers with up to 24 years of experience — or 84 percent of the workforce — would get permanent raises next school year from $500 to $5,000. Teachers also would reach the top-scale salary of $50,000 sooner — in their 20th year, compared to 25 years today.
McCrory also wants to return to the previous expectation that most teachers will get a slight salary increase with each additional year on the job. Legislators changed the salary schedule in 2014 so experienced-based increases come every five years or so. School superintendents and administrators asked McCrory to seek annual step raises again for teachers, according to McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis.
Teachers currently at the top scale wouldn’t get a permanent raise but $5,000 bonuses, with $1,100 bonuses for the less experienced teachers. Previously, McCrory’s office said the permanent pay raises would cost $247 million annually and the bonuses would have a one-time cost of $165 million. The state’s projected $237 million surplus should help pay for these increases.
As for state workers, McCrory, in keeping with his philosophy of targeting permanent pay increases in certain fields, wants to give 3 percent bonuses to state workers, with the amount capped at $3,000.
Permanent raises still would go to state law enforcement officers, court clerks, assistant prosecutors and magistrates. He’s also asking for another $27 million for a special fund to attract and retain workers in high-demand fields such as health care, information technology and engineering.
But the State Employees Association of North Carolina said McCrory’s proposal “insults and dismisses state employees who continue to fall through the cracks of his ‘Carolina Comeback.'”
In his final budget offering before seeking re-election this fall, McCrory also wants $57.5 million more for roads and $3.8 million for continued modernization at the Division of Motor Vehicles. He also asking that the state’s rainy day reserve fund grow by another $300 million to $1.4 billion to prepare for unanticipated shortfalls in the years ahead.
“We’re going to ensure the state has a safety net for future economic swings,” McCrory said.
In news releases, House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, offered initial positive support for McCrory’s savings reserve request as well as his focus on pay raises for teachers. But Berger said this week he wants budget growth to be no more than 2 percent and didn’t commit to completing the $50,000 teacher salary goal in one year.
Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is challenging McCrory in November, said the governor’s budget doesn’t provide enough for schools and “it will not help everyday people whose wages are stagnant.”