Saturday, August 9, 2014

2014 State Budget Update

The NC General Assembly has passed a $21 billion dollar state budget for the current fiscal year. It was recently signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory. I believe this is an overall good budget, and I felt comfortable voting for it.

Crafting a state budget is a tedious process that involves ample debate between the two legislative chambers. For that reason there is no such thing as a perfect budget that everyone will be completely satisfied with. Having said that, I do believe this is a responsible budget that will do a lot of good for our state.

Much of the debate on the budget was focused on teacher pay increases and funding for teacher assistants. We ultimately agreed on a plan that provides teachers with an average 7 percent pay increase, and retains funding for all teacher assistants. Longevity pay for teachers has been rolled into base pay, and we have restored teacher pay steps, which were frozen in 2009.

One of our top goals this year was to provide teachers with a meaningful pay increase. That goal has been accomplished, and it was done without raising taxes. In terms of percentages, this is the largest teacher pay increase in over nine years. In sheer dollar amounts, this is the largest teacher pay increase in our state's history.

Under this plan North Carolina has moved from 45th to 32nd in the national average of teacher pay. Within the Southeast region of the United States, we have moved from 9th to 4th in average teacher pay. This is a significant step in the right direction, and we will continue working to increase teacher compensation in future budget cycles.

Here are highlights of the state budget:
  • Increases pay for teachers an average of 7 percent.
  • Provides most other state employees an average $1,000 pay increase and five extra vacation days. 
  • Retains funding for teacher assistant positions in early grade levels.
  • Provides Highway Patrol officers with a 5-6 percent pay increase.
  • Establishes an education endowment fund that allows individuals and businesses to donate money to supplement teacher pay.
  • Allocates funding to help reduce class sizes in kindergarten and first grade.
  • Makes the SBI an independent agency with its director appointed by the governor.
  • Hires three investigators who will research possible voter fraud for the NC Board of Elections
  • Creates a “First in Freedom” license plate to honor early North Carolina leaders who advocated for American independence.
  • Allocates $186 million for Medicaid contingency. (Working to ensure the efficient operation of Medicaid will be an ongoing endeavor.)
  • Bans individuals and government agencies from using drones to conduct surveillance without permission. 
  • Allocates $3 million to repair the hull of the USS North Carolina Battleship in Wilmington.
  • Provides financial assistance for veterans to attend community college and UNC-system schools.
  • Provides $2 million in funding for University Square in Greensboro. This is a nursing school that is being facilitated as a joint effort between UNCG, A&T, GTCC, and Cone Health.
It was with careful thought and consideration that I chose to vote in favor of this budget. It is balanced in a responsible fashion; it funds the core services of government; and it provides a much-needed pay increase for teachers. And it does all of this without raises taxes on any of our hardworking citizens.

Teacher Pay Charts

Below are three charts that help to explain the teacher pay increases that have been established in our current state budget. 

Chart 1 - Teacher Salary Schedule

This chart shows the pay increase that teachers will receive, which is based on how many years they have been in the profession. There are boxes and arrows indicating how the pay step system will be implemented. All teachers will be receiving a pay increase, although those toward the beginning of their career (particularly those from year 0-12) will receive the highest percentage pay increase. Also, note that longevity pay for teachers has not been eliminated; it has been rolled into base pay, which is received monthly rather than in an annual lump sum.

Chart 2 - Teacher Salary Schedule Comparison

This chart compares past base pay for teachers, with and without longevity pay (green and red lines), with how much teachers will earn under the new pay scale (blue line). 

Chart 3 - Average Annual Salary of Teachers by State

Finally, this chart details where North Carolina stands in the national average of teacher pay, before and after the pay increases. Note that our state has moved from 46th to 32nd in the national average, and from 9th to 4th among states in the Southeast. This is a significant move in the right direction, and we will continue working to provide pay increases as revenue allows. 


Short Session Continues

Although we have finished the process of passing a state budget adjustment, the 2014 legislative session is still underway. There are a few bills that we may try to take up before adjournment. We will likely adjourn in the next week or two.

Quote to Remember

"There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty."
- Margaret Thatcher

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any thoughts, questions, or concerns related to any legislative topic.