You've heard criticism of N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis' recent decision to award pay raises to staff members, a decision publicized in the News & Observer at the same time that the newspaper documented complaints about cuts associated with the new state budget.
As one who has pointed out that — regardless of its merits — Tillis' decision didn't look good politically, I now highlight Tillis' response to a Republican activist who had questioned the pay raises.
When I took office, I decided to hire “nontraditional” staff for key positions, none of whom had prior government employment experience. All had political experience but working here day after day is a different beast so I was not entirely sure that all would work out (or want to stay). Therefore, I offered probationary salaries that were on average 25% lower than the typical compensation for the same roles in the Senate, Lt. Governor’s, and the Governor’s staff. After 90 days, and in a few cases it was closer to 120, I authorized increases that brought the staff up to compensation levels that are still at or below the comp for the same positions in the Senate, Lt. Gov, and Gov’s.
I met with the news reporter with the N&O and I explained this to her but it was clear that she did not want the facts to get in the way of a good story. In additional to explaining what I’ve written above I also told the reporter that we staffed for the “peak” and what proved to be the most productive session in modern times. I told her she could not annualize staffing levels because we would be ramping down staff after session ended and that our 2011 staff budget would be below the 2009 staff budget for the democrat-led session.
Several of the staff I have hired were only on the payroll during session because it did not make sense to have a full complement of staff given the relatively short session and the very long interim period.
Two of my staff whose annual salaries were posted actually worked gratis (no compensation including no reimbursement for travel) for over the month of January but the reporter still reported an annualized salary.
Three policy staff who have been on my staff for the peak period will only be on my staff through the summer when they transition to other open positions outside of the Speaker’s office or they leave the legislative organization entirely.
Two or three other administrative staff will also likely transition into other opportunities or will leave the legislative organization entirely.