McCrory defends hefty salaries of young staffers
RALEIGH — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is defending the big government salaries and raises granted to two young Republicans who worked on his 2012 campaign.
The pair of 24-year olds, who have worked in state government since January and were recently promoted to key senior positions at the Department of Health and Human Services, are well qualified, McCrory said. Both beat out older job candidates for their positions, adding that it would be wrong to discriminate against someone on the basis of age, McCrory said.
Matthew McKillip is paid $87,500 annually as the chief policy adviser to DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos. Records show McKillip received a $22,500 raise on April 8.
DHHS Communications Director Ricky Diaz is paid $85,000, after receiving a $23,000 raise on April 1. Both are recent college graduates who worked on McCrory's 2012 gubernatorial campaign and transition team.
"They got promotions," McCrory said. "They were actually moved over to areas that frankly a lot of older people applied for, too. But frankly, these two young people are very well qualified and they are being paid for jobs at which that's the pay rate for that job."
The big raises came after a March 8 directive McCrory sent to state agencies instructing them to freeze salary increases, limit purchases and reduce travel to help cover shortfalls in state Medicaid funding.
There are plenty of people in state government who are well paid and that it was unfair to focus on McKillip and Diaz because of their ages, McCrory said.
"We have university presidents making $400,000, we have coaches making a lot," McCrory said. "Listen, I wish we could have fair pay across the board, but to pick out two pays. ... I even questioned it. I said, 'How can we give a young guy this.' But I can't discriminate based on age. Just because a young person does a better job than an older person who may have gotten that job. I went, 'That's not right either.'"
The taxpayer-supported salaries for McKillip and Diaz are about three times the starting salary for North Carolina public school teachers, who received no raises in the $20.6 billion state budget approved by the Republican-led legislature and signed by McCrory. The budget also eliminated a program that pays teachers more for earning master's degrees.
McCrory did not respond to requests from The Associated Press for comment Thursday. He told WNCN the comparison to teacher pay is unfair.
"It's sad," McCrory said. "I'd like teachers to make a lot more. I'd like teachers to make what TV anchors are paid. ... So I can apply that to a lot of professions. We've got to show more respect in the state and the nation for the teaching profession — and reward the best of the best. And that's my goal."