Some North Carolinians who work for state government may receive raises of up to 28 percent, legislative leaders announced Thursday.
Leaders in the N.C. General Assembly have yet to officially approve budget changes or to even reveal their full plan, which is likely to pass. (Republicans hold a supermajority and can override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper if he vetoes their legislation.)
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But Thursday, key budget writers announced they plan to raise the minimum annual salary of full-time state employees to $31,200 — or give a 2 percent raise if a salary is already at that level or higher.
Currently the lowest full-time salary is $24,332 a year. About 12 percent of the state's workforce will get a boost with a raise to $31,200, which equates to $15 an hour. All full-time state employees will get a 2 percent raise and five more nonexpiring bonus leave days.
"That is life-changing money," said Rob Broome, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina.
State Sens. Harry Brown of Jacksonville and Brent Jackson of Autryville, as well as Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary are lead Republican budget writers and Broome joined them at the Capitol in Raleigh for Thursday's announcement. Republican leaders said that, in total, the budget will direct more than $200 million in additional funding toward pay raises for state employees.
Of that, $20 million will go to public university employees and $24 million will go to community college employees. The UNC Board of Governors and NC Community College System will determine how those funds are distributed.
Raises for grade-school teachers — who recently held a massive march through downtown Raleigh for higher pay — will likely be announced later this week, Brown said.
“This budget agreement proves it is possible to provide meaningful raises to our state employees while still demonstrating fiscal discipline, living within our means and allowing taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money,” Jackson said.
North Carolina officials are in the middle of adjusting the system for how state employees are paid, and part of that is a review of the appropriate pay scale for every type of government job.
Democratic leaders did not respond to requests for comment.
The state's law enforcement community was specifically identified in the announcement.
Base pay for entry-level Highway Patrol officers will rise to $44,000 a year from about $39,000 a year, Brown and Dollar estimated.
Raises for troopers will average out at 8 percent, they said. Top trooper pay will reach $64,200 a year, and legislators said their plan will accelerate the time frame for a trooper to get to top pay to six years. It's unclear what the average time frame is currently.
The legislators also unveiled raises for correctional officers, for whom they've expressed safety concerns.
Four people died during an inmate escape attempt at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City on Oct. 12, and a prison worker was killed by an inmate at Bertie Correctional Institution on April 26.
Dollar and Brown announced raises and benefit expansions that they hope will help the state retain prison workers. Correctional officers in state prisons will get a 4 percent raise.