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Salary flap becoming headache for McCrory

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory
August 20, 2013 3:56:01 PM PDT
The fallout over certain pay raises within North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory's administration is turning into a political headache for the governor.

McCrory has defended the huge pay hikes for several young staffers who worked on his campaign, but critics want the governor to reverse that decision until all state workers get a raise, especially teachers.

The young Republicans singled out by critics include Matthew McKillip, who was named chief policy adviser to Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos. Records show the 24-year-old received a $22,500 raise in April, bringing his salary to $87,500. Before joining state government in January, McKillip worked for McCrory's 2012 campaign and spent 11 months as a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

Records show 24-year-old DHHS Communications Director Ricky Diaz got an even bigger raise in April, boosting his state salary to $85,000. Diaz campaigned for McCrory after working for one year in the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Both men work in a department that manages the state Medicaid system. Governor McCrory has blamed millions of dollars in Medicaid overruns for making it impossible to afford salary increases for North Carolina teachers. The state currently ranks among the lowest in the nation for teacher salaries.

"I was left with a financial mess here, with Medicaid costs set by my predecessor that are 550 million dollars more than anticipated. If that wouldn't have occurred, I would have been able to give every teacher a 3 percent pay raise," explained McCrory in an interview with ABC11 last week.

Back in March the governor asked state agencies to freeze pay raises where possible to cover the Medicaid shortfall.

"Nobody knew that a month later, the same agency which manages Medicaid is doling out pay raises for political cronies," charged Gerrick Brenner with the liberal group Progress NC.

Brenner is calling on McCrory to rescind the April promotions and raises for his former campaign staffers.

McCrory has brushed back critics who say McKillip and Diaz are too young and inexperienced.

"I came from the private sector where you don't pay based upon age you pay based upon talent and that's what I want to do with all state employees - want to do with our teachers too," said McCrory last week.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has declined to comment on camera.

"Shouldn't the director of communications come forward to communicate to taxpayers to show that he deserves the 35 percent raise while teachers get hosed year after year after year," said Brenner.

In a statement, DHHS said both McKillip and Diaz are qualified, capable, and successfully performing their duties.

It said total base salaries at the agency are actually down $21 million from last year. It also pointed out Secretary Wos deferred her salary and is only making a dollar a year.

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