House, Senate Leaders Talk About NC Budget
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- General Assembly leaders made little progress Tuesday on teacher pay and lottery advertising in budget negotiations even though Senate GOP members announced they would back off requiring teachers to give up earned job protections to get proposed large raises.
The Senate budget earlier proposed increased average teacher salaries of more than 11 percent - a huge jump after only one small raise since 2008. But senators would grant such a pay jump only to teachers who voluntarily relinquish their career status.
The two chambers also failed to reach an agreement on lottery ads. The House wants to double the cap on advertising expenses while adding new restrictions on ad content. The change would generate $30 million in additional profits for the state. The two issues are important to resolve so that the legislature can finalize adjustments to the second year of the state budget that began last week.
During a public negotiating session, Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, told House members their latest budget offer no longer ties teacher pay to eliminating teacher tenure.
"That's a move the Senate is willing to make," Brown said. He said the pay proposal would raise North Carolina from 46th among the states and the District of Columbia in average pay to 27th and near the top in the Southeast, according to Senate documents.
House Republicans kept backing their own pay package, which would raise salaries by more than 5 percent on average and support Gov. Pat McCrory's proposal to experiment with merit-pay options in local districts that ultimately would expand statewide.
Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes and co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the Senate's offer would still cut funding for more than 7,000 in second and third grades statewide. The House plan doesn't reduce assistant funding.
"We don't want to put anybody out of work," said Holloway, adding that local superintendents want the funding for assistants, which are critical to classrooms in early grades. Senators countered by saying reading scores have remained lackluster even with teacher assistant funding.
"What the Senate is trying to do is find another model, (and) that is to upgrade the quality of the teacher," said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg.
The Senate's reversal on linking tenure to pay raises comes a year after the legislature voted to phase out tenure for veteran teachers on the argument that it would improve classroom performance. Groups sued over that law, which a judge last month said violated rights of teachers for a layer of review beyond administrators when they are fired. The legislature is now considering ending tenure only for new teachers entering the system.
The House stuck to its position to double the limit on North Carolina Education Lottery advertising to 2 percent of total lottery sales, or about $35 million. At the same time, it would prohibit lottery ads or sponsorships with universities and requires ads to include the odds of winning a game's largest prize, not the overall odds of winning a prize. House Republicans want lottery ads to be "at least mathematically truthful," said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, the House's chief budget negotiator.
Brown and other senators said the lottery changes sounded counterproductive. Brown said the Senate could be willing to raise the current 1 percent cap on lottery advertising to 1.25 percent, which he said would generate another $20 million. But Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said he didn't even want to go that far and "clutter up our airwaves with lottery advertising."
The two sides were expected to meet again in public Wednesday. In one sign of positive news, Dollar said legislative leaders had authorized budget negotiations to begin in subcommittees covering five of seven agency categories - all but public education and health.