Under the Dome

NC Democrats use budget memo to bash McCrory on education

Democrats said Gov. Pat McCrory is playing “bait-and-switch” with the education budget, using a memo his budget director sent to state departments in August in an attempt to show what they said is McCrory’s intent to cut education next year.

McCrory spokesman Ricky Diaz said in a statement that Democrats are trying to distract attention from the decline in teacher pay before McCrory took office.

McCrory has touted teacher pay raises in his reelection campaign.

The Aug. 26 memo to from state budget director to all state departments, institutions, and agencies says they should prepare budget requests that show 2 percent cuts. Requests for new spending should be limited to 2 percent of this year’s appropriation, the memo says. The changes must be “budget neutral” or result in net savings.

McCrory’s budget office sent similar instructions to departments in previous years.

“As I have heard the budget director explain in other settings, it is a routine part of the budget process to ask all departments and agencies to proactively plan contingencies for all possible budget revenue scenarios by identifying potential areas for savings in case it becomes necessary in the event of another national economic downturn, and as the memo states, doesn't reflect any future plans,” Diaz wrote. “But thanks to Governor McCrory and his administration, the state is in a better position than ever to weather any future storm thanks to a fiscally responsible approach that has led to a record-high rainy day fund, budget surpluses and an updated, more modern tax code.”

Democrats said this year’s memo demonstrates that McCrory is not as dedicated to education as he says he is. Democratic legislators at a news conference Monday called this year’s teacher raises an “election-year gimmick.”

If McCrory felt strongly about education, he could have exempted the state Department of Public Instruction from the mandate to suggest cuts, said state Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat.

McCrory is trying to “hoodwink the public into thinking and believing that he is for increases in teacher pay, that he’s for increases in the education budget when, in reality, the memo is clear,” McKissick said.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner