Leaders in the state House and Senate responded to Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed budget adjustments for the Short Session on Thursday. Cooper waited a week before the start of the session before releasing his budget.
Senate Leader Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) released a joint statement responding to Cooper’s proposed budget, criticizing Cooper for releasing the numbers to the public at the same time as the legislature.
“With less than a week left before session, it’s concerning that this is the first we are hearing of Roy Cooper’s full budget proposal,” Berger and Moore said in the joint statement. “And what we are hearing appears to be more of an unserious attempt to score political points in an election year than a responsible, sustainable budget for ten million North Carolinians.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and during his over 30-year career in politics, Roy Cooper has dutifully followed the same failed tax-and-spend policy playbook that led to furloughed North Carolina teachers, massive education cuts, hiring freezes for state employees and frozen teacher salaries the last time Democrats were in charge.
“But legislative Republican have learned from the mistakes of Cooper’s Democratic Party and already committed to funding key priorities – like a fifth consecutive teacher pay raise, tax relief to families and businesses, new incentives designed to recruit major new businesses to our state and record rainy day funding to prepare for future natural disasters – on behalf of citizens who trust us to be thoughtful, careful stewards of North Carolina’s public finances.”
Cooper’s budget adjustments call for $24.5 billion in state spending, which Cooper says would not include any increased taxes though it does include freezing certain scheduled tax breaks from going into effect.
“Our economic recovery has been good for those at the very top, but many families are still struggling to get ahead,” Cooper said. “My budget makes middle class families a priority and ensures that all North Carolinians have opportunities to find good jobs, put more money in their pockets, and raise their families in safe and healthy communities. My budget starts with public education because schools are the focal point of success. A quality teacher in every classroom and a quality principal in every school make for great public schools. They shouldn’t have to take to the streets to get the respect they deserve.”
Cooper said that his plan would give teachers an average 8 percent pay raise this year with all teachers getting at least a 5 percent raise.
Cooper said that his plan would give veteran teachers more of a raise to compensate for the legislature pushing higher raises to early career teachers to increase the state starting salary for all teachers.
The budget pays for the teacher raise by targeting the scheduled income tax cuts to the middle class, freezing additional tax breaks for income over $200,000 a year and corporations.
The budget also includes millions for Cooper’s various job programs to attract jobs to the state, as well as for job training programs.
Cooper touts that his budget will put more money in families’ pockets but it appears he is referring to a 2 percent raise for state employees, or $1,250, whichever is higher and not tax cuts for everyone.
Cooper is calling for $43 million for increased rural broadband access and $13 million to develop economic development sites and recruit new industries.
Cooper’s budget also calls for expanding Medicaid coverage to 670,000 North Carolinians, more than $9 million for mental health funding and to combat the opioid crisis.
Cooper also called on the legislature to provide additional funding for Hurricane Matthew victims in addition to the $630 million the state has already disbursed for the recovery effort.
Cooper calls for another $139.5 million to go to the recovery effort and an additional $184 million to be placed in the state’s Rainy Day Fund to be prepared for the next storm, though Cooper was critical of the state allocating money to the Rainy Day Fund during the 2016 campaign before Hurricane Matthew hit.
“My budget shows what we can accomplish with the right priorities,” Cooper said. “This is a balanced proposal that lowers taxes, improves our schools and helps North Carolinians get better paying jobs and live healthier lives. My plan ensures that families across North Carolina will benefit from our state’s success.”