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N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos gave some very big raises to at least two members of her leadership team.

Ricky Diaz, Wos’ communications director, and Matthew McKillip, her chief policy advisor, got April pay bumps of $23,000 and $22,500, respectively.

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

Diaz now makes $85,000 a year and McKillip makes $87,500, according to state employee salary information maintained on databases at the Charlotte Observer and News & Observer.

Both are 24, two years out of college and came to DHHS after working for Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign and transition teams. Diaz also worked in McCrory’s press office shortly after McCrory was sworn in.

DHHS chief policy advisor Matthew McKillip Source: LinkedIn

DHHS chief policy advisor Matthew McKillip
Source: LinkedIn

State employees received no raises in the recent budget, a decision that’s particularly rankled state teachers who spend 15 years in the classroom before reaching base salaries of $40,000. And Gov. McCrory issued a memo in March directing state agencies to stop salary increases to offset an unexpected Medicaid shortfall.

Wos has declined to take a salary and is being paid $1 a year. The Greensboro physician and her husband are big donors to Republican causes, and she served as an ambassador to Estonia under President George W. Bush.

The News & Observer reported yesterday that McKillip was promoted to the position of chief policy officer, from the DHHS senior policy advisor position he took in January.

Calls to Diaz for comments about the pay raises were not immediately returned Wednesday morning. This post will be updated if we hear back.

McKillip is now making $87,500, after an April 1 pay raise of $22,500, according to a News & Observer database of state employee salaries.  That amounts to a 35 percent increase.

McKillip’s LinkedIn profile shows he graduated from Georgetown University and worked for a year for the conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute before coming to work on McCrory’s campaign.

Diaz, DHHS’ communications director, is another young rising star in Wos’ department. Now making $85,000, Diaz received a salary increase of 37 percent with his April pay raise of $23,000, according to state employee salary data.

Diaz worked previously for McCrory’s campaign and transition office, and has worked in the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and on the Senate campaign of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

Source: DHHS employee newsletter

DHHS Communications director Ricky Diaz. Source: agency newsletter

Diaz’s predecessor made $78,481 a year.

The DHHS raises are much higher than what McCrory gave his cabinet secretaries when he took office in January, which continues to stir up controversy amongst teachers and others upset with the lack of pay raises in this year’s budget.  McCrory gave several of his cabinet secretaries raises of 5 to 13 percent, the highest being $13,200.

Did we miss any other big pay raises in state government that we, and the public, should know about? Let us know. You can email reporter Sarah Ovaska at sarah@ncpolicywatch.com.

Take a few minutes this morning to listen to Gov. Pat McCrory, in an interview with WUNC, respond to criticisms about the voter identification law he just signed and other controversial actions coming out of his office and the Republican-led legislature.

The 12-minute interview conducted by Frank Stasio (host of the Triangle-area NPR station’s “The State of Things“) delves into many topics, from recent legislation targeting abortion clinics, the decision to not expand Medicaid in the state and the elections bill signed yesterday and already being challenged in court on allegations of violating voters’ civil rights.

To listen to the interview by “State of Things” host Frank Stasio, click on the audio link on the WUNC news story about the voter ID bill.

In the WUNC interview, McCrory again compared the voter identification bill to measures that require identification to collect public benefits and buy some varieties of over-the-counter cold medicine that’s used to make meth. He used that comparison in the minute and a half Youtube video he put released Monday afternoon for the bill signing in lieu of a press conference.

“Nobody talked about disenfranchising people to buy Sudafed,” McCrory said in the interview with Stasio. “I frankly think our right to vote deserves similar protections.”

Read More

mcblog2Lots of the discussion around the abortion bill (S353) Gov. McCrory says he will break his campaign pledge and sign has focused on the extensive new regulations aimed at health clinics providing abortion services that are aimed at putting the clinics out of business.  There is another part of the bill however that will affect all women in NC who decide to buy private health insurance plans through NC’s new health exchange established as part of national health reform.

With this bill McCrory and NC legislators will prevent women, who are buying health plans in the health exchange with their own money, from choosing to buy health plans that cover abortion services.   Read More

Note: The Commerce Department has taken issue with my characterization of Decker’s comments,  please see a note about their objections below.

N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker told a group of reporters in Raleigh Monday that turmoil and conflict surrounding this year’s state legislative session has made it difficult to sell North Carolina on the national stage.

“I’m fielding calls every day , ‘what the heck’s going on (over) there?,’” Decker said, in response to a question about the turmoil surrounding this year’s legislative session. She added, “The current environment makes it very challenging to market North Carolina.”

Decker’s comments were made Monday while speaking to a group of reporters in Raleigh and were in response to a question about how receptive businesses were to the state given the national attention that the ambitious, conservative agenda, including an extensive proposal to change the state’s tax system, at the N.C. General Assembly have earned. The weekly arrests of protestors upset at what they see is an agenda that hurts the poor and middle-class at “Moral Mondays” events have also brought a considerable amount of national attention to the state.

N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker

N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker

She also said that the state’s current corporate income tax is too high in order to be competitive, and that she plans on continuing to use incentives as a way to lure employers to the state.

Decker added to her comments, saying that she doesn’t believe the state has lost any jobs as a result of the controversy surrounding Jones Street but has heard from company’s concerned about what will happen to the state’s corporate tax rates.

North Carolina has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation, and Decker said she’s been concentrating much of her effort on addressing job shortfalls.

This year has seen weekly arrests of protests at Moral Monday’s events and messages coming from Republican leaders in the legislature has been about a state left with broken systems after decades of Democratic leadership.

Click here to read the latest Associated Press article that raises questions about whether the criminal charges filed against the nearly 700 protesters are appropriate. Read More