Senate passes budget with small raises, no COLA for retirees

May 12, 2017

The N.C. Senate voted earlier this morning to approve its budget proposal, which turns a blind eye to the needs of state employees and retirees in favor of tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

The budget includes:

  • A pay raise of $750 or 1.5-percent of salary, whichever is greater, for state employees. Anyone making less than $50,000 will receive just $750.     
  • No retiree cost-of-living adjustment or one-time bonus.
  • A $1 billion tax cut, most of which will go to the rich and the corporations in this state and won’t benefit working families.
  • Teacher pay increases that far outpace that for state employees, ranging from 3.5 percent up to 9 percent in some cases.
  • Fully funds the state retirement system and State Health Plan, but ends the promise of health care coverage in retirement for new hires.
  • Creates a new Department of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice by pulling those functions out of the Department of Public Safety.
  • Eliminates 69 vacant Adult Corrections positions and another 196 DPS nursing positions at a time when more officers are desperately needed, certainly not less.
  • Further outsourcing of Department of Transportation pre-construction work despite any evidence that it saves taxpayer dollars, and plenty of evidence to the contrary.
  • Moves Capitol Police from under State Highway Patrol to the Department of Public Safety.
  • Closure of the Wright School in Durham, a perennial candidate for cuts.
  • $363 million for the “Rainy Day Fund” or state reserves.

Pay for state employees and cost-of-living adjustments for retirees were the major focuses of criticisms for the budget among media members. SEANC’s Ardis Watkins even found support in an interview on conservative talk radio when she went on WPTF-680 AM’s “You Don’t Say” with Rick and Donna Martinez.

Rick Martinez, who worked in Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration, called the senate’s raises “chintzy” and agreed that state employees should be treated equally regardless of whether they are teachers, correctional officers or work on our roads and in our hospitals. You can hear Watkins’ interview by clicking here. Her segment starts around 24 minutes in and continues to the end.

Watkins also pointed out the hypocrisy of contributing to reserves rather than investing in public services in this story from the N.C. Justice Center.  “We’ve managed to get these historic reserves through denying employees raises and cutting benefits,” she said. “That’s not something we should really be proud of.”

It's important to note that the Senate's budget proposal is simply another step in the annual budget process. The state budget process now moves to the N.C. House, where we feel confident that we can work representatives to properly recognize the hard work and sacrifices of state employees and retirees with meaningful raises and COLAs.

The House plans to work all next week on its proposal. Once the House approves it, the two sides will form a conference committee to work out the differences, then send it to Gov. Roy Cooper, who will either sign or veto it.

We need SEANC members to be ready to contact their legislators once the House budget is unveiled. You can lay the groundwork now by clicking here to use SEANC's Engage too to call and ask for their support.

Correctional officers should get same benefits as law enforcement

The recent death of Sgt. Meggan Callahan, a DPS employee and SEANC member who was killed by an inmate at Bertie Correctional Institution on April 26, has called attention to the dangers facing the people who work in our prisons every day. Attacks on officers are routine in N.C. prisons and yet officers do not receive the benefits a law enforcement officer does. SEANC says Enough is Enough!

The Charlotte Observer reports that a correctional officer is assaulted approximately once every eight hours in this state, and there were 1,160 assaults on prison staff in 2016. Just this week another assault resulted in serious injury at Piedmont Correctional Institution in Salisbury.

All aspects of law enforcement are dangerous, but arguably, no one is at greater risk than correctional officers. Literally every second of their work day is spent having to "watch their back."

Correctional officers are the bravest of the brave, dealing not with suspected criminals, but convicted criminals for an entire 12-hour shift. Often one correctional officer can be assigned to as many as 80 inmates. And the only thing that officer has to defend his or herself is a can of mace. Worse yet, some of these inmates (such as the one who attacked Sgt. Callahan) are serving life sentences for violent crimes and have literally nothing to lose by harming an officer. 

SEANC is pressing lawmakers to support granting the exact same full benefits to correctional officers that are guaranteed by statute to officers with full arrest powers. This would provide eligibility for certain disability and death benefits, and allow them to retire earlier. This should have been done years ago, but now is the time to do it and show that Sgt. Callahan's death is not just swept under the rug and ignored. And that enough is Enough!

We also continues to collect donations for the Sgt. Callahan Memorial Fund. All proceeds go to Sgt. Callahan's family. If you would like to contribute, click here. You can also mail checks, payable to SEANC with “Sgt. Callahan Memorial Fund” in the memo line, to:

Sgt. Callahan Memorial Fund
1621 Midtown Place
Raleigh, NC 27609