LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: House Budget falls short of addressing vacancy crisis, retaining good employees

Mar 31, 2023

The House released its version of the state budget on Wednesday that failed to make a meaningful investment in the workforce at a time when high vacancy rates are plaguing state government.

There are empty beds in DHHS facilities because there’s no staff to take care of the people who would fill those beds. There are prisons operating at more than 50 percent vacancy rates, and everyone is keenly aware of the safety risk that poses for the employees and the public. State employees working tirelessly to try to continue meeting the needs of the growing number of citizens in our state. A budget that does not properly invest in public services sends the message that current employees’ hard work is not appreciated and does not help with recruiting new ones.

The overall vacancy rate in state government is more than 23 percent. North Carolinians are receiving nearly 25 percent fewer state services because there’s less and less appeal to working in public service. The first-year employee turnover rate is 37 percent, and still, this budget does not recognize the crisis at hand.

As the budget continues to move through the process, SEANC will continue to remind lawmakers that they are going to have to face the staffing crisis sooner or later. Executive Director Ardis Watkins drove home that message in several news stories on the budget announcement this week, including the CBS-17 video above as well as stories from:

The vote to pass the House proposal is expected next week and will be sent to the Senate to await their edition of a state budget, likely in May. The General Assembly will be on Spring break April 10-14.

Highlights from the House budget proposal:

  • State employee pay raise 4.25 percent in 2023 and 3.25 percent in 2024 for a total of 7.5 percent.
  • Additional 1 percent raises for some employees from a labor market reserve.
  • School bus drivers get an additional 2 percent on top of the 7.5 percent.
  • For State Highway Patrol employees, raises of 11 percent over the two years.
  • A 1 percent true COLA in each year for retirees for a total of 2 percent over the biennium.

Senate Bill 87, which would eliminate payroll deduction of dues and products for state employees, and Senate Bill 254, which would open up information regarding personnel actions in an employee's personnel file, remain in the Senate Rules Committee and have yet to be calendared for a hearing.