NC’s latest shell game: paying for your “raise” with money from your health plan

Do you remember when NC Treasurer Folwell launched his Clear Pricing Project last summer on the premise that North Carolina’s State Health Plan has $34.4 billion in unfunded liabilities?

Where is he now to express concern over these unfunded liabilities when section 8 of SB 818 cuts funding to the State Health Plan to pay for so-called educator raises?

Step right up, we have another NC General Assembly shell game.

Instead of watching the moving ball that is educator pay, keep your eyes on the prize that they’re raiding our health plan $47,277,728 during a pandemic in an attempt to convince educators and all North Carolinians of their benevolence to public school employees by offering $350 “bonuses” to teachers and step increases to staff.

We’ve seen this before when lawmakers took longevity pay from veteran educators then rolled it into the salary schedule and called it a raise.

Let’s take a look at that so-called commitment to educator raises:

By the way, veteran educators do not receive additional pay despite movement to another “step” (see 2019 column above) and it appears the longevity pay was used to supplant supposed pay increases, not supplement them.

They’re at it again robbing Peter to pay Peter.

This time they’re using our health plan to do it.

Don’t worry, they’ll say, section 8.2 plans to reimburse the State Health Plan with federal relief funds.

It is the intent of the General Assembly to restore employer contribution rates for Retiree Health and to the State Health Plan to the amounts in S.L. 2019-209, as originally enacted on August 30, 2019, in the event the federal government provides additional relief funds or additional flexibility on existing relief funds that can be used to support the General Fund.

Based on that optimistic intent, one would hope that NC’s members of Congress are working hard to secure the federal funding referenced in SB 818.

It seems they forgot to share this plan with Rep. Virginia Foxx since she said this about federal COVID19 support for schools:

“I’m a student of the Constitution, and I’ve read it many times and I’ve failed to find the word ‘education’ in there.”

Neither of North Carolina’s Senators, Thom Tillis or Richard Burr, have committed to supporting the HEROES Act that would presumably produce the reimbursement funds, and more importantly support state and local efforts to prepare for reopening schools this fall.

I guess they didn’t get the memo either.

Instead they support Sen. Mitch McConnell’s ‘wait and see’ plan – you know, because maybe state and local governments won’t need their help after all since the pandemic is just about over (sarcasm – sad that I have to qualify that).

What would have happened if either of the pay proposals offered last year were passed? Where would the money have come from to fulfill the commitment?

For all the pearl clutching by state leaders at COVID 19’s impact on state revenue (est. $4 billion less) where was that concern when they willingly surrendered $3.5 billion EACH YEAR since 2013 when they cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy?

Is losing revenue not a problem when it’s caused by NC GOP tax policies?

Is “borrowing” from my health plan to give me and some of my colleagues a raise praise worthy?

If this is the extent of creative problem solving offered by SB 818 sponsors, we’re in trouble when it comes to funding what it will take to safely reopen schools this fall.

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