RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Senate and House leadership stood together Monday night to announce a budget compromise to the tune of $22 billion.
"This budget achieves our shared goals with Gov. McCrory of prioritizing teachers pay, cutting taxes on middle class, controlling growth of government spending and bolstering our savings," said Senator Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).
Under the new budget, families could have more money in their pockets due to a tax cut. The first $17,500 earned will be exempt from taxes. State employees will see a 1.5% raise and could earn an additional 1.5% in bonuses. State retirees will get a one time 1.5% bonus instead of a cost of living increase.
"It was a good compromise that allowed us to cut taxes and fund the critical needs of the state," said Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain).
Erlene Lyde, a longtime chemistry teacher and president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Educators Association disagrees.
"The message that they are sending to those of us that are in the pipeline to retire, is get out now, go somewhere where you are appreciated," She said.
"So, it is a worry, and I am worried about that, and when I see my colleagues who have retired, I see how they are struggling," she said in response to the lack of cost of living increase.
Lyde is also critical of the teacher pay increase in this budget. State lawmakers say it is a 4.7% bump in pay, bringing the average teacher pay over $50,000 next school year and nearly $55,000 in three years. However, Lyde says those numbers don't add up unless supplemental county pay is included. She says that supplemental pay is not something every teacher receives. She also says many experienced teachers were already slated for this raise.
"It sounds good, 'we want y'all to vote for us this coming year', but it's really not making a difference," Lyde said.
State leaders say they are investing in people with this budget, putting more than a half billion dollars towards salaries. Still, Lyde says they can do more, especially with the savings reserve set to top $1.6 billion.
"They are talking about their rainy day fund, they could've done more for all state employees. To me, this is smoke and mirrors --they can spin it anyway they want to-- it is not going to retain teachers in North Carolina," Lyde declared.
The budget year ends this Friday. This budget still needs final approval from the House and Senate, and then it will head to Gov. McCrory's desk for his signature.
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