RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With no state budget expected to be enacted until at least September, leading Republicans say it’s unlikely they’ll move to approve pay raises for state workers and teachers before then.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said this week there’s “zero” chance of the budget being resolved this month. Republican legislative leaders have reached an agreement on tax rates and what to pay employees, but they have dozens of other issues left to resolve including whether to legalize additional casinos.
“The pay raises are significant. They are meaningful. They are designed to reward teachers and state employees. They are designed to do more than just keep up with the inflation that we are dealing with,” Speaker Moore said without revealing the precise amounts.
Moore added that any raises that are ultimately approved for state employees and teachers will be retroactive to July 1.
Republicans hold a supermajority in the legislature and likely will be able to enact a budget even if Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes it.
Ardis Watkins, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, described the situation as a “gut check” moment for the state.
About 23 percent of state government jobs are vacant, according to the most recent data from the Office of State Human Resources.
SEANC has called for 5 percent raises for state workers in each of the next two years plus a $5,000 retention bonus.
“People are becoming more aware about autopsy delays, about newborn screening not happening for weeks or up to a month. These things, as time goes on, more and more taxpayers are starting to realize are connected to the budget,” she said. “This isn’t about state employees. This is about what taxpayers are not getting and the public safety risks that are wrapped up in it. And, people are starting to get it.”
Republicans have said they’re open to the idea of approving “mini budgets” that would include pay raises and other aspects of the budget that Republicans already have agreed on if they’re unable to reach an agreement on the broader state budget.
However, Speaker Moore said he was still optimistic leaders of the two chambers would find common ground.
“I think you should have significant progress made in the next couple of weeks so you have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to be,” he said.
Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) also said the Senate is open to the idea of mini budgets but added, “I hope that’s not an option we go to.”
The Office of State Budget and Management reported Monday that the state took in about $3 billion more in revenue than originally expected in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
OSBM also noted that state agencies had about $1.1 billion in unspent funding, which officials described as “a larger amount than is typical.” They noted much of that was attributed to the higher-than-normal vacancy and turnover rates.
“We’re operating like a state that has nothing, like a state that’s in terrible condition and a state that’s not giving its taxpayers the public health and safety it deserves when we have money,” Watkins said. “That’s not OK.”