State Employees Association of North Carolina, SEIU Local 2008 P.O. Drawer 27727, Raleigh, NC • www.seanc.org 800-222-2758 • 919-833-6436 • Circulation 55,000
• Vol. 31, Issue 3
Republicans Take Full Control in Raleigh GOP controls General Assembly and Executive Branch for the first time in 143 years Owens
At left is SEANC Legislative Affairs Director Ardis Watkins and N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) on the General Assembly’s opening day on Jan. 9. Below, SEANC Lobbyist Mitch Leonard (left) talks to Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) about the upcoming session.
Photo by Alicia Miller
With Republicans controlling both the General Assembly and the governor’s mansion for the first time in more than 140 years, 2013 is sure to be a year unlike any other in state politics. Along with that major shift in power, there are also plenty of fresh faces in state government. New Gov. Pat McCrory was sworn in on Jan. 5, and the 2013 session of the General Assembly opened on Jan. 9. A large class of freshmen lawmakers, coupled with an even larger class from 2010, means that two-thirds of the General Assembly have two or less years’ worth of experience in the legislature. With a new governor comes new cabinet-level appointments, meaning new bosses for many state workers. The departments of public safety, commerce, cultural resources, revenue, administration, environment and natural resources and transportation all have new leadership, with McCrory promising a “customer-service approach” to state government. SEANC’s legislative team started laying the groundwork to promote the association’s interests before the session began, and will be there to make sure state workers’ rights and benefits are protected throughout. SEANC works with leaders from both parties on issues important to state employees. Almost half of the N.C. Senate members and nearly a third of all N.C. House members in the 2013
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General Assembly were endorsed by EMPAC, the association’s political arm. “It’s going to be a busy year, that’s for sure,” said SEANC Executive Director Dana Cope. “Fortunately we have built strong relationships with leaders on both sides of the aisle. We will fight every day to make sure the vital public services our members provide taxpayers remain a priority.” McCrory and General Assembly leaders have made it clear they intend to
Photo by JOnathan Owens
SEANC Asst. Director of Communications
reform North Carolina’s tax structure, even hinting at scrapping the income tax all together for a consumption-based tax system that would raise sales tax rates. Unemployment benefits, retirement funding and the budget will also be hot topics of debate in this session. For a complete list of SEANC’s 2013 Legislative Priorities, visit http://bit.ly/ WtToEO.
Executive Director’s Message By Dana Cope
SEANC Executive Director
Tax Reform Among Top Issues to Watch
hings are sure to be different in Raleigh this year with the transition of power. SEANC has had a positive working relationship with Republicans in the legislature in recent years, as well as with newly elected Gov. Pat McCrory. We hope to continue to work with them on matters important to our members. Gov. McCrory and his colleagues in the legislature have made it clear they intend to tackle extensive tax reform in this General Assembly session. They argue that high personal and corporate tax rates have hindered North Carolina’s ability to attract companies and jobs. They are expected to press for major reforms, or even the scrapping of the state income tax all together in favor of a consumption-based Cope tax system that relies on a higher sales tax for revenues. This is a complicated issue for state employees that we at SEANC are still studying, and we will have to wait until the legislature makes public the details of their plan before we can take a side. There are pros and cons for our members. On one hand, a consumption-based tax system would likely be a more stable source of revenue for the state than the current mix of sales and income taxes. With less volatility in the system, state employees would have to worry less about changes in funding, and the possible job cuts that may come as a result. But a consumption-based tax system is also thought to be regressive, meaning that it could disproportionately affect the middle and working classes. Why? Because it is not always the case that the more you make, the more you consume. While we are all in favor of making North Carolina more competitive, tax reform shouldn’t come at the expense of our hardworking state employees and middle class families. There are ways to make a consumption-based tax structure less damaging to the middle class. For example, legislators could include an earned income tax credit for those making less than 250 percent of the poverty level. The bottom line is that everyone will need to be included
The Reporter • February 2013
in the final outcome, not just the special interests lobbying for exemptions and loopholes. We expect to have enough of a clear picture of the tax reform proposal by the next Board of Governors’ meeting in February. Unemployment insurance liability is also going to be a hot topic during this session. We will continue to watch this debate as well to ensure that those who need help still have access to it. Securing retirement will also be a major issue. We will fight to continue the current defined benefit plan and make sure the state is kicking in its fair share. We also want control of the retirement system’s investments out of the hands of a single fiduciary — the state treasurer — and into a setup similar to the State Health Plan, with a board making decisions on how to invest your money. We will continue to fight efforts to privatize of state services. It has been proven time and again that public workers who have a stake in this state can provide much better services than corporations who only care about the bottom line. Rest assured that SEANC’s team of lobbyists will work tirelessly to make sure state workers are part of the discussion on these and any other issues important to your job and your life that may arise in this session. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Photo submitted by Lynn Tuthill
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SEANC Members Spread Holiday Cheer
Photo submitted by James Vaughan
SEANC District 65 sponsored a 4-year old boy and a 1-year-old girl through the Salvation Army as part of its annual Christmas project. The district contributed $150 per child to purchase items from their wish lists. In addition, $53 was collected at the district’s Holiday Social in a 50/50 raffle for the charity. The gifts were delivered on Dec. 14. Pictured with the gifts are SEANC members (from left) Cynthia Hart, Lynn Tuthill, Lina Johnson, Angie Tyson, Jacqueline Caudill, Martha Peele, Angela Sherwood, Tonya Braxton, Debbie Austin, District 65 Chairwoman and Eastern Region Representative Gloria Highsmith and Kim VanWagenen.
Peggy Cotton, District 19’s Fundraising and Community Service Chairwoman, left, is pictured with one of Gravelly Hill Middle School’s administrators. District 19, in collaboration with the school and The Neighborhood House of Orange County, donated three boxes of items to assist families in need this holiday season.
District 63 presented food to three needy families in the area to make sure they had a happy holiday season. Pictured from left to right: J.E. Benton, Dottie Benton, Anke Cahoon, Sherry Equils, District 63 Chairwoman Marion Drake, Jimmy Horton, Betsy Skinner and J.E. Skinner.
The Reporter • February 2013
Members of District 5 participated in the annual J. Iverson Riddle Development Center Christmas Parade in Morganton and won the Community Friends Award. Pictured from left to right in the front row is Georgia Stapf, Sherry McCracken, Dale Brittain and Sunny Vanderbloemen, in the middle row is Johnny Burnette, District 5 Chairman Tony Smith and Nick Fox, and on the back row is Sam McCracken.
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Photo submitted by Henry belada
Photo submitted by Lynn tuthill
District 7 Chairman Henry Belada poses with District 5 Chairman Tony Smith and District 5 member Georgia Stapf at the annual JIRDC event in Morganton.
SEANC District 65 gathered volunteers, including SEANC members, family and friends as well as ECU students, to help make 20 miniature Christmas trees. These trees were donated to the Spring Arbor Nursing Home. This is a yearly community service for the board and different locations are chosen each year. The trees are placed in each residentâ€™s room to brighten up their holiday. Pictured from left to right are Cody and Lydia Hodges, Seth Tuthill, Gloria Batts, Alicia Simpson, District 65 Chairwoman and Eastern Region Representative Gloria Highsmith, Devonte Speller, Kahshanna Dupree, Lina Johnson, Debbie Austin, Evelyn Hinnant, Lynn Tuthill. Not pictured are members Linda Nelson, Karen Simmons, Kim VanWagenen, Doris Wrighten and Conya Owen.
The Reporter â€˘ February 2013
International Now Taking Scholarship Applications By Johnny Davison SEANC Communications Specialist
Every year, Service Employees International Union awards more than 50 scholarships to those who wish to continue their education. As an affiliate of SEIU, SEANC members and dependents can apply for a scholarship through SEIU’s five scholarship programs. The deadline for applying for an SEIU scholarship is March 1. In order to qualify for one of SEIU’s lottery scholarships, which are awarded without regard to sex, race, religion, national origin, sexual origin, age or disability, you must be a member for three continuous years as of Sept. 1. To be eligible for the renewable scholarship, applicants must graduate from a high school or GED program by August 2013 and must be enrolled as a full-time student for the fall semester of 2013 at an accredited two-year or four-year college, trade or technical school. To be eligible for the non-renewable scholarship applicants must be returning full time to an accredited college or university as a sophomore, junior or senior as of the fall semester 2013, or attending an accredited community college, trade or technical school as of the fall semester 2013.
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Last year, Brian Harrison, son of District 25 member Gina Harrison, and Cameron Chesson, son of District 68 member Deborah Chesson, were awarded scholarships for their hard work and desire to pursue their educational goals. Harrison, who is attending School of The Art Institute of Chicago, received one of 15 $1,000 renewable scholarships. Chesson received one of 33 $1,500 one-time non-renewable scholarships to use toward his tuition at North Carolina A&T State University. In addition, all applicants must pass a quiz on the SEIU 2012 Four Year Report. Graduate students are not eligible to apply for these scholarships. SEIU also offers four competitive scholarships worth up to $5,000 per year. Applications are also available online for SEANC’s scholarships. The deadline for applying is April 15. SEANC’s scholarships will be featured in the March Reporter. More information on SEIU’s awards can be found at http://bit.ly/SmcWQd. For information SEANC’s awards, go to http://www.seanc.org/membership/scholarship/
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The Reporter • February 2013
Quotes to Note
“The employees who work for those executives are also underpaid. I hope this is a rising tide that will lift all boats, not just the one with the captain in it.”
SEANC Executive Director Dana Cope in a Jan. 11 News & Observer article, “Gov. Pat McCrory gives his cabinet generous salary hikes”
“This is not a gift from taxpayers to employees, these employees have earned their retirement. If the crime has nothing to do with the employment of the person, it seems like it would certainly be far reaching for the state to try to take action in that regard.” SEANC Legislature Affairs Director Ardis Watkins in a WECT-TV story, “Convicted felons can keep state pensions”
“This settlement will cost the retirement system far more than it will the university. As governor, Mike Easley neglected the retirement system and even diverted money from it for other purposes, showing no respect for the system or those state employees working to fund it.”
““This lawsuit raises an important legal issue regarding under what circumstances a state retiree’s is deemed to have returned to work for the state and, thus, lost their eligibility for retirement benefits.”
SEANC Legislature Affairs Director Ardis Watkins in a Nov. 30 News & Observer article, “Mary Easley’s pension soars with N.C. State settlement”
SEANC General Counsel Tom Harris in a Dec. 10 WRAL-TV story, “Retired state DOT worker fights double-dipping laws with suit”
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The Reporter • February 2013
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SEANC Helps Cushion the Fall From Fiscal Cliff By Jonathan Owens
Asst. Director of Communications
The President and Congress reached a deal in early January to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” and the major tenet of the deal was a tax increase on those making $400,000 per year and more. But as you’ve probably already found out by looking at your paycheck, everyone’s wallet got a little lighter with the deal. That’s because the federal government allowed its payroll tax holiday to expire. The holiday had cut payroll tax rates by 2 percent across the board and was meant as a stimluant for the sluggish economy in 2011 and 2012. Because the holiday was not renewed, a worker making $50,000 will have $1,000 per year less in take-home pay — more than $80 per month. That’s a lot of money for any of us! Luckily your membership in SEANC can help cushion that hit to your bank account through several money-savings partnerships. For instance, SEANC’s insurance programs are often more cost-effective than other plans offered to state workers. For starters, your SEANC dues pay for a $1,000 Accidental Death & Dismemberment policy right off the bat. You can get policies for life, vision, dental, auto, home and more that give
The Reporter • February 2013
you peace of mind for your family’s safety at an affordable rate. Give our insurance programs a try today by visiting seanc.org/ insurance. Also, SEANC’s partnership with PerksConnect gives members more than 3,000 discounts at big name stores, hotels and restaurants nationwide, as well as local discounts at your corner jewelry store, diner, florist and more. Check out SEANC’s PerksConnect website at http://bit.ly/UyvhVI or download the mobile app for iPhone or Android devices. SEANC’s partnership with Purchasing Power gives members a flexible payment option for large purchases. Members can buy a laptop for their kids in college or a new refrigerator without blowing their savings at once. Instead, a small amount is deducted from each paycheck. Check it out at http://bit.ly/XhyP0X. And, perhaps most importantly, a SEANC membership gives you representation in state politics. The payroll tax increase was a result of a federal, not state, bill. Any matter that comes before the state legislature or from the governor’s mansion is vigorously scrutinized by SEANC’s legislative team, who fights every day for your rights and benefits as a state worker.