A short provision buried deep in the budget deal passed today by the North Carolina General Assembly eliminates retiree health benefits for future teachers and state employees.

As reported by NC Health News, language in the budget says indicates that all “state employees hired four years from now will not receive health benefits from the state once they retire after decades of service.”

[NC Health News’ Rose Hoban has much more on this developing story—click here to read.]

If this budget becomes law (it’s now with the Governor, awaiting his signature), teachers hired in 2021 and after won’t be able to take advantage of a valuable benefit that is also used as a recruiting tool.

It’s no secret that teacher salaries in North Carolina are among the lowest in the nation, so benefits like state-funded health insurance that close the gap between the time a teacher retires and Medicare kicks in is a way for the state to lure—and keep—talented professionals who may otherwise choose more lucrative professions.

Lawmakers’ efforts to eliminate retiree health benefits for state employees are not new. Back in 2015, lawmakers included a similar provision in the state budget that would have eliminated state employees’ retiree health benefits for new hires beginning in 2016. That move prompted a huge public outcry, and the provision didn’t make final budget negotiations.

This time, lawmakers have gotten a little smarter by setting the start date for eliminating retiree health benefits four years from now—perhaps hoping that North Carolinians’ attention spans won’t endure that long.

Two years ago, when I first reported on the possibility that teachers’ retiree health benefits could disappear, many readers wrote in. Here are some of their comments:

To those who made this proposal, what does North Carolina have to offer compared to other states? Why would one pursue this state verses other states when their is higher pay, higher long term benefits, and appreciation to their employees? –Sara Benfield

Well, I guess you just sealed the fact that my son, nor any of his friends, that will be going into the teaching force in the year of 2016, will be teaching in NC. How much more are you going to do to the education in NC? We are already at the bottom, due to the fact that we are losing great teachers to others states. Really, get your priorities in the right order. Our children and their education should come first. –Sandra Peterson

Every legislator should spend some time in the classroom actively participating in at least a full week of classes. This experience would show them the necessity of having teacher assistants and the wisdom of paying teachers in NC a decent wage. I taught high school and community college for 30 years and the love of teaching is important but so is the ability to pay bills. NC used to be a state that I was proud to say, “I am a NC teacher and the State of NC really looks after its teachers.” I don’t think that statement will be true in the future. My heart is breaking. –Anne Lewis

More reaction on today’s budget, which eliminates retiree health benefits for future teachers and state employees:

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