Politics & Government

House Speaker Tim Moore raises salaries for returning staffers

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore approved raises of more than 20 percent for several staffers who’d previously worked for him or his predecessor, Thom Tillis.

Although the overall salary budget for the House Speaker’s staff is down slightly from last year, Moore has increased salaries for returning staff members while offering less to new hires.

Sarah Newton made $65,000 last year as Tillis’ primary health and human services policy adviser. Newton, who’s worked at the legislature since 2012, is now listed as Moore’s senior adviser on the topic and makes $85,000 – a 30.8 percent increase. She remains the only adviser exclusively devoted to health policy.

Tillis’ former policy director, Andy Munn, is now Moore’s deputy chief of staff and makes $120,000. Munn had earned $107,000 under Tillis, while Tillis’ deputy chief of staff made $75,000 last year.

A spokeswoman for Moore said the higher salaries are justified because they reflect “expanded roles in the office.”

“When Rep. Moore was elected speaker, these individuals were interviewed and hired for new staff positions,” Mollie Young wrote in an email. “Each of them brought in prior NCGA experience, but are now tasked with more responsibility.”

The two other Tillis staffers who were kept on did not see their job titles change. They received raises of 3 and 6 percent.

As the House rules chairman last year, Moore had two staff members. Both those staffers received promotions and significant raises when he was elected speaker.

His longtime legislative assistant, Nancy Garriss, now makes $66,500 as his executive assistant and director of administration. Last year, her weekly pay rate would equate to $41,112 a year.

Misty Greene, who served as legal assistant to the rules committee last year, saw her salary increase $10,500 to $49,000 when Moore named her a policy analyst. Before being hired at the legislature, Greene had been a paralegal in Moore’s Kings Mountain law firm.

Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, said he doesn’t know enough about the jobs to know whether the raises are appropriate. He noted, however, that state employees are unlikely to receive a raise of more than 1 percent in this year’s budget.

“We always need to be careful about perceptions, and at a time when I’m concerned that state employees are not going to get the pay raise that they deserve, we do need to be careful about that,” Martin said.

The House Democratic leader, Rep. Larry Hall of Durham, said the raises appear to “make sense” for the employees who are taking on more duties – Garriss and Newton in particular.

“There is a balancing act of trying to pay to get the best people and the best service for the policy we enact,” Hall said.

Moore’s total salary budget – $929,000 for 12 employees – is just under the $931,292 that Tillis paid his 12 staffers last year. The budget does not include Moore’s $38,151 salary. The staffs – and corresponding budgets – for legislative leaders have grown substantially over the past dozen years. In 2002, House Speaker Jim Black, for example, had a staff budget of $407,000.

Rob Schofield of the advocacy group N.C. Policy Watch said Republicans haven’t tried to change that trend. “The thing that’s most striking is the disconnect between all of the rhetoric about shrinking government and at the same time adding more staff and pumping up salaries,” he said.

But Young, Moore’s spokeswoman, said Moore’s staff is crucial in leading the 120-member House. “The speaker hopes to offer more individual support to House members, enhance communications, and work in close collaboration with committees and their chairmen,” she said. “The staffing choices reflect those priorities.”

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