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A bad budget with one positive signal to progressives

TeachersHeadline-hunting legislative leaders got what they wanted and needed (for now) with yesterday’s latest budget announcement. They wanted the story to be first and foremost about big teacher raises and it appears pretty clear that they got that. Media outlets around the state are reporting that central component of the proposed budget agreement this morning and millions of North Carolinians are waking up to the news — even if it’s frequently tinged with skepticism.

The problem with this story, of course is that, by all indications, the pay raise is being purchased at an enormous price — i.e. big cuts everywhere else –including education — along with tiny and inadequate pay raises for other public employees (including education personnel).

In short, though many details remain to be seen, the central and disastrous driving force behind this year’s budget — last year’s regressive and backward-looking tax cuts remain in full force. As budget analyst Tazra Mitchell wrote here yesterday:

There are better choices available that will put North Carolina on a stronger path to recovery for children, families, and communities across the Tarheel state. For starters, lawmakers need to face the reality that we can’t afford further tax cuts and stop the income tax cuts that are scheduled to go into effect next January. Doing so will save approximately $100 million in the current fiscal year and $300 million in the 2015 calendar year. These revenues would go a long way towards reversing the most damaging cuts that were enacted in the aftermath of the Great Recession. That’s a short-term fix.  A longer term fix requires restoring the progressive personal income tax structure so that revenues are stable and more adequate.

The only saving grace of the budget is this: the message it sends to progressives. As dreadful as the budget is — both for the near and long term — it does serve to remind progressives of the power of advocacy.

The only reason a conservative Republican legislature and governor are feeling compelled to propose a big teacher pay raise in 2014 is the hell that people have been raising for the last year and a half.  It wasn’t that long ago that conservatives in North Carolina were arguing forcefully that teachers are plenty-well-paid. Heck, some of them continue to make that argument. It’s clear to anyone who looks that McCrory, Pope, Tillis and Berger have been dragged to this point kicking and screaming.

So, bottom line message: The budget is lousy and the work of progressives to turn things around in North Carolina has barely begun. But it’s clear that our advocacy works. The teacher pay raise shows this. It’s time to get back to raising heck on everything else.

8 Comments

  1. Penny

    July 30, 2014 at 8:33 am

    This is NOT a pay raise for teachers!! Taking away longevity pay for veteran teachers means NO raise at all!

  2. Debbie

    July 30, 2014 at 9:18 am

    With 29 years in, it looks like I may not see any raise and could possibly make less.

  3. Joe Reed

    July 30, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Naturally we’re delighted that The Wright School was spared the fate that the Senate has been seeking for 5 years…but the rest of this nightmare of a budget is an embarrassment to the state.

    Yes, advocacy works — but what works much better is VOTING!

  4. Pertains!

    July 30, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Taking away longevity pay means a pay cut for veteran i.e. Experienced teachers.
    Bet the compression of the steps on salary schedule will equal a decrease in pay also!
    We will need to see entire plan before we celebrate over teacher pay increases.
    THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS!
    Tillis and Berger will not give anything without taking it back in some form.
    This is just a slight of hand!

  5. Alex

    July 30, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Way too early to be jumping to conclusions ! I doubt very seriously there would be any pay cuts in this budget. Just like the national budget, entitlements are slowly eroding and eating up huge chunks of discretionary spending in the state budget.

  6. david esmay

    July 30, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Keeping spinning reality Alex!

  7. Alex

    July 30, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    All of a sudden, Alan has disappeared and Esmay magically re-appears ! What’s going on here?

  8. Susan

    July 31, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I believe (not positive) all NC state employees have a longevity benefit.

    State public education employee’s longevity pay does not begin until completing 10 years employment and that is 1.5% of salary and at 15 years earns 2.25% ; 20 years earns 3.25% and after 25 years employment they earn 4.5%

    Easy to see how the most experienced will only end up with….. 7 – 4.5= a big whooping 2.5% raise.

    Kudos to our representatives for celebrating that they have reached a compromise. Shame it is not a good deal for teachers;-(

    Moving us to ~35th in nation? Wonder what they are comparing because it won’t be based on veteran teachers!

    FYI other states that are recruiting our teachers pay more and offer longevity pay.