Senate passes budget with no across-the-board raises, COLAs

Jun 03, 2016

As expected, the Senate rushed its budget proposal through this week, giving the final OK to it after midnight this morning.

Simply put, the Senate’s budget is a bad one for state employees and retirees.

The Senate provides only a "merit" raise for some state employees, but nothing across the board for all employees. This would leave agency heads free to give raises only to their favorite employees. Cherry picking is wrong. Not giving a raise to all employees in a time of surplus is wrong.

For retirees, the news is even worse. The Senate chose to turn a blind eye to the sacrifice that our retirees have made for the state by not including a cost-of-living adjustment at all in its proposal. Retiree checks now buy 10-percent less than they did just six years ago because of budgets like the Senate has proposed once again. the Senate claims it is trying to "protect" the system from the liability of a COLA. This is ridiculous. The only way a COLA is an unfunded liability is if the Senate is saying it plans to never put money into the system again.

If you will recall, the House approved a modest but reasonable 2-percent pay raise and $500 bonus for state employees and a 1.6-percent COLA for retirees. Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram (D-Northampton) bravely brought forth an amendment Thursday to include the House’s proposal in the Senate budget. The amendment was gutted in favor of Rep. Warren Daniel’s study of Broughton Hospital, perhaps an important issue, but not as important as the lives of hundreds of thousands of state employees and retirees.

The state has more than enough revenue this year to give raises to state employees and retirees. The legislature likes to tout that its economic policies are putting the state on the right track. But state employees and retirees are not experiencing a "Carolina Comeback" at all.

We need all SEANC members to contact their legislators in both the House and Senate now! Tell them that state employees and retirees are falling woefully behind the cost-of-living each year that true raises and COLAs aren’t given. Ask the House not to cave in to the Senate by one dime taken from state employees and retirees. Click here to find your legislators.

SEANC members win battle in House for retirees

The short week started off on a high note Tuesday morning, when thanks to outcry from SEANC members, two harmful provisions were removed from a retirement bill in the House Pensions and Retirement Committee.

One part of the bill would have taken away retirees’ rights to have association dues, PAC donations and even insurance premiums easily deducted from their pension checks each month. Thanks to an amendment from Rep. Pat Hurley (R-Randolph), the committee voted unanimously to remove the harmful provisions.

SEANC also opposed part of the bill that would have set a minimum retirement age of 55 for new hires. This provision was also removed by an amendment offered by Rep. Jeff Elmore (R-Alleghany). Thanks to Rep. Elmore and the rest of the committee for recognizing that a minimum retirement age is unfair to state employees who start young and dedicate their lives to public service.

SEANC retirees turned out in full force at the meeting, filling both the meeting room and the hallway in opposition to the measures. We thank all members who contacted legislators urging them to remove this harmful portion of the bill.

The fight isn't over though. The language remains in the Senate version of the bill, and the House version can be changed in the floor debate. We must all remain vigilant.

DOT provisions in Senate budget

As expected, the Senate budget also contains drastic restructuring measures proposed by the Department of Transportation that will cut as much as 22 percent from the agency and lead to massive outsourcing.

The cuts remained in the Senate budget that passed at midnight. Since an amendment from Rep. Gary Pendleton removed it from the House’s budget, this issue will be a sticking point in the conference committee debate.

SEANC is looking for stories of privatization gone wrong in the Department of Transportation or in any other department. If you know of any examples, please contact the SEANC Government Relations department today. 

And the most important thing you can do is contact your legislators today and tell them that state employees can always provide better services more efficiently than a for-profit corporation that doesn’t care about the great state of North Carolina.