UNCsystemBe sure to check out this morning’s front page Progressive Voices commentary over on the main Policy Watch site by Appalachian State professor Michael Behrent. In it, Behrent decries the massive expansion in the number of highly paid university system administrators and calls on the chancellors of the various UNC campuses to return the fat raises bestowed upon them by the Board of Governors. This is from Behrent’s essay:

“Seriously, though: as contemptuous as the Board of Governors’ decision is of faculty and students everywhere, chancellors have options. Like a handful of rare but inspiring university leaders across the country, they can resist administrative bloat and academic inequality by simply refusing the new salary hikes….

These university leaders set an example UNC chancellors should follow: they should renounce the Board of Governors pay increase. They should make it clear that they cannot be bought. And they should openly declare that a vibrant system of higher public education means investing in faculty, staff, and students. It does not mean handsome rewarding the agents entrusted with dismantling it.”

Some of the substance of Behrent’s piece is echoed in an editorial this morning in Raleigh’s News & Observer entitled “Spread the wealth to NC state workers.” As the N&O notes, the root of the flawed salary structure has much to do with the trickledown tax policies of the General Assembly:

“But the awarding of these raises at the executive level spotlights the need for the General Assembly to do more than award a one-time $750 bonus to faculty and staff and state employees. The on-the-cheap treatment of all those employees is going to cost the state valuable workers and set up a teacher shortage.

Do legislative leaders not see the irony here, that people who are already among the highest paid in the state get raises of tens of thousands of dollars retroactive to the start of the fiscal year on July 1, while regular employees get a relatively small bonus?

The problem, of course, is that Republican legislators have reduced state revenue by cutting taxes for the wealthiest North Carolinians and big business. After the rich get richer, there’s not much left for the rank and file.”

Sadly, there is little mystery about what’s going on here. As is noted in the post immediately below, the folks running North Carolina right now are employing precisely the same tactics that modern American capitalists have used to transform our once broadly middle class society into, effectively, a plutocracy. And unless caring and thinking people wake up and fight back, even our public institutions and structures will soon be poisoned and transformed by this toxic and destructive trend.


You’d think Gov. Pat McCrory would be embarrassed to release a video recognizing state employees (see below) on the same day that the ink is drying on a new state budget that once more leaves them mostly out in the cold, but, alas, a capacity for being embarrassed does not appear to be a part of the Guv’s makeup. Here’s Chris Fitzsimon explaining the details in today’s Fitzsimon File:

“In a case of perfect timing, Governor Pat McCrory released a video Friday morning thanking state employees for their service to North Carolina and declaring next week State Employee Recognition Week.

Later in the morning McCrory signed a state budget that denies most state employees a raise, instead giving them a one-time $750 bonus that will not count toward their retirement.

The lack of a raise comes despite a state revenue surplus. Legislative leaders and McCrory decided to cut taxes again, primarily on corporations and the wealthy, instead of giving state workers even the modest two percent across the board pay increase the House budget originally proposed.

McCrory wants to recognize state employees—but not pay them very much.”

Back in May, McCrory said he wanted the state’s budget surplus to be used to give state employees a raise. Today, he signed a budget that does no such thing and dispensed the following virtual pat on the back in its place:

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Budget see sawLegislative leaders did their best yesterday afternoon to spin their new budget agreement in a positive light by describing it as a compromise that spends more than last year in absolute dollars and that eschews some of the more radical proposals that had been discussed during the seemingly endless 2015 legislative session. Much of what’s in it remains to be seen as it appears the 429 page document is chock full of special provisions unrelated to the budget.

That said, the central, overarching reality is this: The new agreement is another austerity budget that keeps state employees and veteran teachers stuck on the salary treadmill to nowhere on which they’ve been trapped for years.

As this morning’s Weekly Briefing notes:

“In the last decade and a half, most state employees have seen only two years of decent pay hikes – 2006 and 2007, when lawmakers granted raises of 5.5% and 4% respectively. Other than those two years, raises have been non-existent or tiny. It’s gotten so bad that a page on the website of the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) actually brags about the 2014 annual raise of $1,000 (less than $20 per week before taxes) as a major accomplishment!

And, of course, it was just yesterday that legislative leaders pushed the repeat button by confirming that most state employees would receive only a flat, one-time bonus of $750 for the new fiscal year. That’s $14.42 per week before taxes or about $2.88 per day. Next year, employees will be back where they were last year when and if the issue is revisited. State government retirees will get no increase at all.

It doesn’t take a math degree to understand that such treatment is pushing state workers further and further behind the eight ball. Since 2001, general U.S. inflation has been around 35%. And, of course, many other expenses have risen even faster. And while U.S. workers have, overall, experienced only flat wage growth for years, at least it’s been flat. State employee compensation in North Carolina, on the other hand, has risen roughly half the inflation rate since the start of the century.”

Simply put, there’s no way to move a state forward when year after year, the human beings who make up the government are repeatedly disrespected and treated as expendable cogs.  Sadly, this year’s budget does just that once again.


*This post has been updated to reflect comments from Senate budget writer Harry Brown indicating that all state employees AND teachers will receive $750 bonuses during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The News & Observer is reporting that House and Senate leaders have reached an agreement on how much to pay teachers and state employees for this fiscal year, nearly two months after their June 30 deadline for making these decisions.

All state employees, including teachers, will receive $750 bonuses toward the end of 2015, said Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow). That amounts to $62.50 per month, before taxes.

Making good on last year’s promise, beginning teachers will also see their base pay rise to $35,000 per year, up from $33,000 that was enacted last year.

Experienced teachers will also receive step increases, presumably as laid out in the state’s streamlined salary schedule, which lawmakers enacted last year—although budget documents detailing the step increases were not made available Wednesday. (See here for the 2014-15 salary schedule.)

It’s unclear whether teachers who are scheduled for step increases as well as beginning teachers will be paid retroactively beginning with the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Tim Moore said their priority will be to focus on “shoring up funds so we can give meaningful raises” next year, according to the N&O.

For a teacher with 15 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree, receiving a step increase will mean jumping up from a base salary of $40,000 to $43,500 (excluding local supplements). Step increases for teachers are scheduled every five years, stopping at year 25 and capping base salary at $50,000.

WRAL reports that budget negotiators are still discussing how much of a pay increase to give state retirees. And there’s no resolution yet about teacher assistants—the Senate wants to slash 8,500+ TA jobs in exchange for reducing classroom size, while the House wants to preserve those positions.

House Speaker Tim Moore announced Wednesday that the General Assembly will pass a third continuing resolution tomorrow. The measure, which will keep state government operations running as lawmakers finalize a budget, will run through September 18—although they hope to reach a final agreement sooner, at which time the above mentioned raises & bonuses will be set in law.


Retiree-benefotsLegislative staff pitched a policy solution to lawmakers on Monday that could reduce the state’s $25.5 billion unfunded liability associated with the Retiree Health Benefit Fund by 11.8 percent, producing a larger cost savings than the Senate’s proposal to eliminate retiree health benefits for all teachers and state employees hired after January 1, 2016.

The fix? Shift some of the costs associated with providing fully funded retiree health plans to the federal government. Going that route would require all retirees to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans—and by doing so, retirees shouldn’t be expected to bear more out-of-pocket expenses and the state would save $64 million annually, reducing the total unfunded liability by about $3 billion.

The Senate, on the other hand, wants to address the unfunded liability by eliminating retiree health benefits for new hires beginning in 2016. Some say this option will unfairly shift more costs to the worker and could hurt recruitment efforts, while producing an estimated smaller cost savings of 10 percent as opposed to the 11.8 percent that would come with enrolling retirees into Medicare Advantage plans.

For the full story, head on over to our main site. And you can read the legislative report below.