RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Before a packed audience, the House Appropriations Committee discussing the state budget proposal Tuesday.
Lawmakers are trying to figure out a number of key issues —- including pay raises for state employees and teacher salaries.
The House likely will take the rest of the week reviewing different areas of the $22.2 billion.
On Tuesday, they started by taking a closer look at teacher pay raises. The House’s proposal would give an average 4 percent raise, with all teachers making an average of $50,000 in the next two years.
“We know that this is a major priority for this body and this chamber and we are moving as a major priority of the House to pay our teachers commensurate with the very important duties that they perform,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Republican from Wake County who is the House budget chair.
Democrats are saying the budget needs to do more for teachers.
“We definitely need to go farther,” said Rep. Larry Hall, the House minority leader. “We’ve seen such a loss in income and buying power among them. We’ve been behind. We’ve made the promises.”
House leaders want to raise the average teacher salary to $50,000 in the next two years. Hall said he’d like to see teacher raises around 4 or 5 percent.
But there are other state employees to consider. And Ardis Watkins of the State Employees Association of North Carolina said salaries for state employees “have a long ways to go.”
“I think the fact there was a huge surplus last year and employees were shut out in terms of base pay increases means there is some ground to be made up,” Watkins said.
Teacher Nikki Brown, an elementary school teacher in Guilford County, said she loves her job but wonders if she can remain at her current salary.
“From where I signed my contract eight years ago and where I should be stair-stepped from the eight years I have worked, it’s significantly lower,” she said.
Some House Democrats also questioned a proposal to increase the state’s standard deduction for personal income tax.
Next year, married couples filing jointly wouldn’t be taxed on their first $16,000 of income.
The deduction for individuals would be their first $8,000.
“Is there any way that tax cut could be extended out another year,” and Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Democrat from Durham.
The goal is to have a revised state budget by July 1.