Two years ago, State Highway Patrol Capt. Marc Nichols was on leave for nearly three months to deal with an extended illness that required two surgeries. The entire leave was covered by comp time he had built up.
North Carolina offers its workers and educators compensation and retirement benefits that are often much better than the private sector's and, in at least one case, unusual even among public-sector employees, according to an N&O analysis.
Each additional benefit tends to amplify the existing ones; the state is now obligated to pay $714 million in accrued vacation and bonus time, more than double what was on the books six years ago. And that number is just for employees of state agencies and the UNC System. It doesn't include public school or community college workers.
That extra cost is important now because of the state's budget crisis. Legislators are struggling to close a $4.5 billion budget shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1, but they have been reluctant to take on key constituencies or powerful special interests, such as state workers. Here's the full story.