State House Leaders Unveil 21.1 Billion Dollar Budget Proposal
Leaders of the state House have unveiled a 21.1 billion dollar budget proposal that differs sharply from the Senate’s plan that passed a week and a half ago. Under the House’s plan, public school teachers would get five percent raises. Teacher assistants would keep their jobs, and state employees would receive pay increases of 1,000 dollars.
Speaker of the House Thom Tillis laid out his chamber’s budget proposal at a news conference in the General Assembly’s press room. As he spoke at the podium, about thirty of his colleagues in the House stood behind him in a long row.
"This budget has a five percent average pay increase for all teachers. We’re honoring the commitment that we made back in February to get our starting teacher salaries up to regional competitiveness the first year to more or less the national average in the second year. "
This pay increase for teachers differs from the Senate plan in a couple of ways- the Senate offered teachers much bigger raises of 11 percent, but it would have required educators to forego tenure protections to get that extra money. The House is more in line with the governor’s proposal. And unlike the Senate, the House budget would keep teacher assistants in the second and third grades. And Tillis says there’s another difference.
Raise For State Employees
"We have a raise for state employees that’s slightly higher than the Senate and the Governor’s proposal. And we’re doing it in a way that isn’t necessarily at the expense of other educational cuts. "
The raise for state employees is a flat 1,000 dollars plus benefits, unlike the governor’s and the Senate’s proposal, which gives employees a raise and benefits totaling 1,000 dollars. But in order to help increase teacher salaries, the House is taking a gamble, so to speak. Representative Nelson Dollar is the chair of the Appropriations Committee.
"We’ll be seeing in enhancements in the lottery by moving up their cap from one percent to two percent of advertising. We’ve also found some additional funds that were there in some reserve accounts as well and placed those toward availability in the budget."
House budget writers believe that increasing the state lottery’s cap on advertising funds will result in more people buying lottery tickets. It’s a shift in attitude from the position some members of the leadership took some years ago, when the lottery was established. But some Democrats say depending on lottery money isn’t a good way to help fund teacher raises.
"The lottery was intended to be supplemental money to increase educational expenditures for things that are non-recurring that you couldn’t buy each year," said representative Rick Glazier who is from Fayetteville. "Now we’re turning it into a direct funding stream for operational expenditures in a recurring manner. And you ought not be planning your budget whether its allocations of teachers or textbooks or teacher salaries on the whim or the basis of how many North Carolinians are going to gamble on the lottery and how much are they going to spend."
But there are other parts of the House’s proposed budget that Democrats aren’t displeased with. The House proposal doesn’t seek to place Medicaid under managed care as the Senate budget seeks to do. And, the House budget refrains from cutting back the Medicaid rolls by 15,000 people like the Senate version does. But there is one key issue both the House and Senate plans have in common- they both seek to move the State Bureau of Investigation from the Attorney General’s office to the Department of Public Safety.
Republican Representative John Faircloth is from High Point.
"There’s a lot of interaction between those agencies, and it’s generally felt by a lot of people that if you have common management, at the top so to speak you can have better interaction, rather than going across departments."
However, in the House’s proposal outlined today, the State Crime Lab would remain under Attorney General Roy Cooper’s purview. The House is expected to pass its budget by the end of the week.