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State employees, teachers would get extra raises under NC House budget proposal

House Speaker Tim Moore, left, speaks to reporters about the legislature's budget plan on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
Colin Campbell
House Speaker Tim Moore, left, speaks to reporters about the legislature's budget plan on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

State House leaders released their proposed budget Monday night that includes additional raises for teachers and state government employees.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate have been negotiating for weeks over how to spend a projected surplus of roughly $1 billion. But the two chambers haven't reached an agreement, so the House plans to vote on its own spending plan this week.

The House wants to give state employees an additional 1% pay raise. That would be on top of a 3% raise already set to take effect next month.

Teachers would get an average raise of 4.4% (up from 3% already set in the current budget law), including an increase in starting salaries from $41,000 to $44,000. The biggest teacher raises are targeted to early-career educators, but all teachers would see at least an additional 1% raise beyond what’s already scheduled for next year. Teachers would also get extra pay if they hold a master’s degree, a perk that was eliminated by the legislature a decade ago.

State retirees would get a 2% cost-of-living bonus for their pensions, and correctional officers would also see an additional raise of 8%.

The proposal includes about $250 million to fund private school vouchers for families at all income levels, and it includes $135 million for child care centers to help them stay open as federal COVID grants expire. That’s about three-fourths of the funding the centers had been receiving from the federal government.

The House budget would also fund renovations at N.C. State University’s Poe Hall, which was closed after testing positive for toxic chemicals. And at UNC-Chapel Hill, the budget includes start-up costs for a new engineering school.

Hours before the proposal was released, House Democrats said the budget bill amounts to political theater because the Senate isn't on board. They say the GOP's budget process is “broken.”

“To use this week to pass a budget bill that cannot become law is disrespectful and disingenuous to the people that put us here,” House Democratic Leader Robert Reives said in a news release Monday. “State Senate leadership has made it clear they are not participating in this theater.”

Reives pointed out that the last time Democrats ran the short session budget process in 2010, the House and Senate were able to get a compromise budget to the governor’s desk by the end of June.

Last month, Senate leader Phil Berger said budget talks weren’t progressing because the House insisted on funding “pork” projects — a reference to local earmarks in the budget sought by individual legislators — using some of the state’s savings reserves.

He told The News & Observer that “the Senate will not go along with that.”

The House proposal does call for tapping some funding reserves, but not the state’s “rainy day fund.” It would pull $350 million from the Medicaid reserve to fund budget shortfalls in the federally funded healthcare program, and it would use $150 million from an economic development reserve to cover infrastructure costs for Toyota’s new battery plant in Randolph County.

Committee hearings on the House budget bill are scheduled for Tuesday, with plans to hold floor votes on Wednesday and Thursday.

The legislature passed a two-year budget plan last year, so if the House and Senate don’t agree on a budget bill this year, that plan would remain unchanged for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.