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.
Wednesday morning, a progressive political action group, Progress NC, rallied outside the North Carolina Department of Health And Human Services building with over 19,000 signatures on a petition that demands the governor and DHHS Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos rescind the promotions and increases given to two employees there.
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.
Demonstrators Wednesday called the raises unfair and hypocritical after the governor and the Legislature signed a state budget with no salary increases for state teachers.
Governor McCrory has blamed millions of dollars in Medicaid overruns for making it impossible to afford salary increases for teachers. North Carolina currently ranks among the lowest in the nation for teacher salaries.
"I resent the message that it sends to our citizens and our kids," former teacher Lee Creighton said. "I think you're telling our kids get in good with the rich people so you won't have to be one of these teachers."
Progress NC's petition was accepted by the assistant communications director at DHHS. Her boss, Diaz, did not address the protest.
However, Wos did release a statement addressing the petition following the rally.
"Our goal is to reduce costs, drive efficiency and improve services, and I am very pleased that the department's payroll is $21 million less than it was just one year ago."