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State Worker Raises Get Final Approval By Legislature

North Carolina Department of Transportation employees, and others, could be in line for pay raises.
N.C. Department of Transportation

The North Carolina General Assembly has sent four state employee and law enforcement pay bills to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's desk.

The measures finalized on Wednesday with House votes are part of a Republican strategy to move portions of the two-year state budget Cooper vetoed in June that are likely to receive broad stand-alone support. Those bills cleared the Senate and the House unanimously.

Cooper hasn't said whether he'll sign the legislation, which gives 2.5% annual raises to rank-and-file state employees, troopers, correctional officers and State Bureau of Investigation and Alcohol Law Enforcement agents. Correctional officers also would get pay incentives for working in certain hard-to-staff or higher-security prisons. The workers also would get five additional vacation days.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger told reporters the legislature will take next week off, then return to advance other chunks of the vetoed budget. Berger said the separate legislation will include budget provisions addressing school and prison safety, directing the use of more disaster relief funds and funding to test old sexual assault evidence kits held by law enforcement.

"The approach is to pass into law those items for which there's already broad bipartisan agreement," Berger said at a news conference. "I don't see any sense in blocking rape kit testing just because there's not agreement on separate policy issues."

On Tuesday — before Moore and Berger unveiled the additional legislation they'll consider in September — the governor criticized their piecemeal approach to the budget, calling it "another trick" by Republicans who won't negotiate with him on passing a broader compromise budget law. House Republicans have been unable to lure enough Democrats to override the veto by Cooper.

"People of North Carolina spoke with my (2016) election and with the (2018) election of a more balanced legislature," Cooper said. "They don't want one side to have it 100 percent their way."

None of the four measures finalized Wednesday contain proposed pay raises for public school teachers because Berger said Republican leaders and Cooper disagree. The GOP budget offered average 3.8% pay raises for teachers over two years, while Cooper's latest offer would provide 8.5% average raises.

Berger stuck to the narrative that Cooper has caused the two-month budget impasse because he won't negotiate on other items without agreement on expanding Medicaid through the 2010 federal health care law. Cooper said Tuesday there's no such ultimatum, but that looking at ways to reduce the number of working people without insurance by accessing federal dollars needs to be on the negotiating table now.

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