September 1, 2015
The telling priorities of the budget compromise
By CHRIS FITZSIMON
you want to understand the priorities of the folks currently running
the General Assembly, the details emerging from the secret budget
negotiations are a good place to start.
and Senate leaders announced Thursday, Aug. 27, that they had
agreed to a compromise on salary increases for state employees and most
The compromise is they won’t get one.
will instead receive a one-time $750 bonus which comes to about $62 a
month. The bonus will not be added to their salary, so next year when
lawmakers consider their compensation again their salary will revert
back to where it was the year before. It’s not clear if retired state
employees will even receive any cost of living increase.
budget will increase starting pay for teachers and some others will
receive pay hikes if they are eligible for a step increase but many
veteran teachers will receive only the $750—including many who have
barely received a raise at all in the last few years.
And folks wonder why teachers are leaving the classroom and fewer college students plan to enter the teaching profession.
employees have it even worse. Most of them, including faculty members
at universities and community colleges, have received next to nothing
in recent years and will receive next to nothing again.
it is not because the state doesn’t have the money. The economy is
growing and there was a revenue surplus at the end of the last fiscal
lawmakers are allowing the corporate tax rate to fall again and Senate
leaders are talking about reducing the personal income tax rate in the
taxes again, on the heels of a massive tax break for corporations and
wealthy individuals passed in 2013, is more important than giving all
teachers and state employees a long overdue raise.
apparently more important than reducing the number of at-risk
4-year-olds on the waiting list for N.C. PreK, a list that has grown
longer in recent years.
it’s more important that providing enough resources for the state’s
prison system to take care of the thousands of mentally ill inmates
It’s more important than anything else.
The Senate does acknowledge that they need to find some new ways to raise revenue to make up for a small part of the tax cuts.
of them is by expanding the state lottery that most Republicans
vigorously and rightly opposed when it was passed by Democrats 10 years
only would the Senate budget increase the amount of advertising the
lottery could do, Senate leaders are also considering allowing lottery
tickets to be sold in liquor stores and authorizing lottery officials
to develop games that can be played on smart phones and video terminals
years ago, Gov. Pat McCrory asked lawmakers to reduce the amount of
lottery advertising, but they ignored him. Last session, House leaders
proposed an increase in lottery advertising but the Senate refused to
go along and blasted the House for proposing it.
year, it’s Senate leaders who want to extract more money from
low-income people who play the lottery more as a percentage of their
same families that used to receive the state Earned Income Tax Credit
for low-wage workers until the General Assembly abolished it, making
North Carolina the only state to create a state EITC and then repeal it.
There are hundreds of other decisions that will be made in the final budget agreement. Most of them have not yet been made.
some important and revealing ones have. The final budget will spend far
less than the inadequate House budget proposed. State employees and
many teachers will get only a small one-time bonus instead of a cost of
living salary increase.
And taxes will be reduced again. The only question is by how much.
And more than likely if Senate leaders get their way, more struggling people will play the lottery more next year.
the way things work in 2015 under the state’s current leadership, and
it’s a disturbing vision they have for North Carolina and its people.
Fitzsimon is the Executive Director at N.C. Policy Watch. NC Policy
Watch is a progressive, nonprofit and non-partisan public policy
organization and news outlet dedicated to informing elected
officials as they debate important issues and, ultimately, to improving
the quality of life for all North Carolinians. Read more commentary at www.ncpolicywatch.com.)