LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Gov. Cooper's budget proposal doesn't go far enough

Mar 20, 2023

This week was busy with state employee and retiree issues at the General Assembly. The biggest news came from Gov. Roy Cooper's budget proposal, which he announced Wednesday.

SEANC's Government Relations team discusses the budget and more in the video above. Details of the proposal can be found in SEANC Executive Director Ardis Watkins' message to members.

Cooper would give a 5% raise to state employees in the first year, 3% in the second year, and a $1,500 bonus for those making less than $75,000 annually. Those making more than that salary would receive a $1,000 bonus.

Retirees would receive a 2% cost-of-living adjustment, and 2% bonus in the first year, and a 1% bonus in year two. The proposal funds the State Health Plan below the amount requested, which will cause employee costs to increase in the coming years.

Watkins told the News & Observer that the proposal needed to go further to tackle the understaffing issues facing state government. In an interview with CBS 17 she said Cooper picked "winners and losers" in his proposal.

"To give a raise that doesn't even match inflation is hardly something that shows them you want them to stay here," Watkins said. "We can't see how you can possibly put together a budget where retention and recruitment are so vital and not at least match the inflation rate."

It's important to note that Cooper's budget has little chance of passing. House leaders have stated they hope to pass their proposal by Easter, and then a compromise with the Senate will be sent to the governor before the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

With a veto-proof majority in the Senate and needing just one vote for the same in the House, it would be hard for the governor to kill the legislature's budget.

Also this week, SEANC called out a bipartisan effort to ease qualifications for some state positions, which we see as a half-hearted attempt to deal with high vacancy rates without giving raises.

"Changing standards won't get us out of this mess," Watkins told WRAL-TV. "Paying and respecting employees with a real investment in salaries and bonuses is the only option that will work."

Senate Bill 254, which would open up state employee personnel files to unnecessary publicity, and Senate Bill 87, which would remove state employees' right to have their association dues and other payments deducted from their paychecks, remain in the Senate Rules Committee and have yet to be calendared.

With the legislature now in full swing, it's more important than ever for members to BE READY TO ACT. Click below to find your legislators or ensure you receive our email alerts and text messages. And be ready to call or email your legislators to make your voices known.