Gov. Cooper will veto state budget, GOP fires back

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) – Governor Roy Cooper said he would veto the state budget Monday morning during a press conference at the governor’s mansion. Republicans quickly responded to the announcement.

Cooper, who was joined by state educators, said the budget was short-sighted and put priorities in the wrong places.

“We need a budget that enables the big dreams of our people,” Cooper said.

Cooper said his biggest issues with the budget was lack of funding for education, and tax cuts given to the wealthy.

Cooper said one of the biggest lies surrounding what the budget does involves teacher pay increases.

“What they proposed in the teacher pay plan matches my proposal. That is simply false,” he said.

WNCT did some fact check, and found that statement to be true. Under Cooper’s proposed budget, both new and veteran teachers would see pay increases. His budget proposal set aside $271 million for teach pay increases, while the General Assembly’s budget set aside $101.7 million.

The GOP plan does give teachers a pay increase, but focuses on those with moderate experience. Teachers with 26 years or more of experience would only see a 0.6% pay increase. The highest raise would come for teachers with 25 years experience, who would see a 6.9% increase.

Overall, Governor Cooper requested more than $9.2 billion be set aside for education in the state. The proposed budget from the General Assembly comes in $220.6 million short of that request.

The GOP backed plan does set aside $100 million to help those impacted by Hurricane Matthew, while also adding hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s rainy day fund.

Rep. John Bell (R), who serves as the Majority Leader in the House, said the budget has gained bipartisan support in the General Assembly because it is fiscally responsible.

“We’re still trying to find the major differences because a lot of the priorities that the governor put forward on, we have in our budget,” he told WNCT. “Of course you can always want more.”

Bell also responded to criticism from North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, who said cuts to the Justice Department’s budget would put the state in danger.

Under the current fiscal year’s budget, the Justice Department is allotted $58,256,028. Under the proposed budget, the department would receive $47,711,294 in 2017-18, and $46,511,531 in 2018-19.

“Saying he can’t operate a functional justice department on a $80 million budget… is very troubling,” Bell said.

Gov. Cooper said he was willing to work with Republicans in the General Assembly to fix what he sees wrong in the budget.

“If the legislature would make a handful of simple, but important, changes, I would sign the budget even though there are many other provisions that I don’t like,” Cooper said.

Cooper said in order for him to sign the budget, teacher pay increases need to be fully funded, tax cuts for the wealthy had to be cut, and access to broadband internet must be expanded, just to to name a few.

In a statement Monday, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “By rejecting our fourth consecutive teacher pay raise – this time totaling 10 percent on average – a major middle-class tax cut and much-needed Hurricane Matthew relief, Gov. Cooper has broken some of his biggest promises to the voters, and they will hold him accountable. We will too, by quickly overriding his veto.”

Republicans still have a large enough majority in the House and the Senate to override any veto from Gov. Cooper.

To see a comparison of the budget with regards to public education, click here.

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