House and Senate Republican leaders gathered at the legislature Thursday to call on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to sign the bipartisan budget proposal that is expected to be sent to his desk this afternoon.
The expectation has been that Cooper would veto the budget, but legislative leaders called on him to support the plan, while making it clear they would pursue an override vote if needed.
“This week a bipartisan General Assembly, with nearly 70 percent of all voting members, passed a state budget that delivers on the very same priorities Gov. Roy Cooper claims to support, based on his own budget proposal and his own words,” Senate Leader Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said.
Directing his remarks directly at Cooper, Berger said, “Governor, your budget included a 10 percent average pay increase for teachers during the next two years. Guess what? The bipartisan budget provides teachers an average 10 percent pay raise over two years – on top of the generous pay raises we’ve provided teachers in recent years – raises that you opposed.
“Governor, in your inaugural address, you said, ‘We’ll put more money in people’s pockets by cutting taxes for middle-class families, and providing the right incentives for more small businesses to create jobs right here in North Carolina. Guess what? The bipartisan budget cuts taxes on middle class families and job-creating small businesses.
“Governor, your budget would add more than $300 million to the rainy day fund, and $100 million to deal with disaster relief from Hurricane Matthew. Guess what? The bipartisan budget saves $363 million for a rainy day and provides $100 million in relief to victims of Hurricane Matthew.
“Governor, you campaigned on providing more Pre-K slots to serve more at-risk children. Guess what? The bipartisan budget adds 3,525 new pre-K slots – eliminating 75 percent of the waitlist for at-risk children.
“Governor, your budget provided a small, one-time bonus to state retirees. Guess what? Our budget provides a recurring cost-of-living adjustment to state retirees.
“Governor, you’ve publicly committed to combating opioid abuse in North Carolina and called on the General Assembly to do the same. Guess what? The bipartisan budget funds opioid and substance abuse treatment statewide.
“And our bipartisan budget does so much more. Yet to hear the governor talk, you’d think we were on the brink of the apocalypse. You see, Gov. Cooper claims this bipartisan budget that mirrors his so-called priorities while spending around 2 percent less than his own budget is ‘the most fiscally irresponsible budget he’s ever seen.’ Governor Cooper should spare us the melodrama and save the theatrics for his political commercials. The people of North Carolina expect their elected officials to keep their word.
“Governor, if the things you’ve said and campaigned on are more than just empty promises, you will sign this budget. Your choices today are crystal clear: You can support an average 10 percent teacher pay raise. Or you can veto an average 10 percent teacher pay raise. You can cut taxes on the middle class. Or you can veto middle class tax relief. You can provide hundreds of millions of dollars in pay raises for state employees, and a cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees. Or you can veto state employee raises and a state retiree COLA.
“You can provide $100 million in disaster relief assistance to victims of Hurricane Matthew. Or you can veto relief for Hurricane Matthew victims. You can add $363 million to the state’s rainy day fund. Or you can veto this safeguard. You can add thousands of slots to the pre-K program. Or you can veto these pre-K slots. You can support efforts to improve road and bridge safety. Or you can veto safer roads and bridges. You can support scholarships for gold-star children of veterans killed in combat. Or you can ignore those kids.”
Berger urged Cooper to not play politics and to not hold up the budget in the state over any political issues.
“Governor, we see it daily across this state and this country. Voters are sick and tired of politicians who talk and talk, and promise and promise, but never deliver. The voters of this state are measuring politicians – Republicans and Democrats – by their actions, not their words.
“If you veto these important shared priorities that Republican and some Democrat legislators have supported through their actions, and you have supported only through your words, you will be judged on your actions, no matter what you have said. And if you block teacher pay raises, middle class tax cuts, Hurricane Matthew relief, and state employee raises, you will have lost your credibility with the voters. And we will quickly override your veto.
“So, governor, keep your promises to the voters and stop playing to the extreme left wing of your party. Do the right thing and sign this commonsense, bipartisan budget today.”