A word of advice to Richmond County teachers: If you were making big plans for how to spend pay raises next year, don’t start acting on those plans just yet.
It looked like a huge “let’s all work together” lovefest in Raleigh last Thursday with a unanimous decision in the N.C. House on a spending plan for education in the next fiscal year. But remember our state’s motto — Esse quam videri — which in English is “To be, rather than to seem.”
Attempting to break a deadlock over the budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which began Monday, the House pushed through a partial spending plan. Instead of dealing with the entire state budget for the year, it voted on narrow areas — most notably education.
While it may seem that the proposal resulted in a massive display of unity across the aisle with Republicans and Democrats marching side by side into victory, residents have to reconcile that view with reality.
The bipartisan unity in the House won’t matter if there is no unity with a majority of fellow legislators in the N.C. Senate. And several key senators aren’t buying into the House plan.
The Senate passed its own version of the state’s budget. The House previously approved another comprehensive budget as well. The two plans were sent to a conference committee to work out the differences.
No such luck so far, and that led to Thursday’s narrow budget plan from the House and a big press conference featuring the governor himself with House leadership and an army of educators standing in the background.
Half of the races for House seats in the general election this year have just a single candidate running unopposed. In the Senate races, 22 of the 50 seats are already secure with no opposition. So for the most part, this display won’t make a difference in shaping the future of the General Assembly.
However — and we realize this sounds awfully cynical — the big press conference could be a big help for one candidate. Thom Tillis was front and center at the event in his official capacity as House speaker. But he was also there as Tillis the candidate for U.S. Senate in November.
TV ads funded by out-of-state groups have already taken aim at the Republican over teacher pay. If the House failed to do something about the issue, that inaction could provide opponents with more ammunition.
Unfortunately, Tillis must also know that despite the overwhelming approval in the House, the pay raise plan doesn’t have much of a chance of making it through the Senate as-is.
Granted, part of the debate doesn’t even involve teachers — it’s about Medicaid expenses. But senators who wield control have their own plan for teachers. It calls for even higher raises, but forces an end to tenure and fails to fund teacher assistants in return for the bigger bucks.
What’s going to be interesting is what happens next.