House Speaker Tim Moore can point to some bipartisan support for the final budget bill: Nine Democrats voted in support, then two others changed their votes to “yes” on the final tally.
Most are moderate Democrats aligned with a new pro-business caucus called the Main Street Democrats. That group’s leader, Rep. Ken Goodman, was one of the yes votes.
He was joined by Rep. Gale Adcock of Cary, Rep. William Brisson of Bladen County, Rep. Charles Graham of Lumberton, Rep. Susi Hamilton of Wilmington, Rep. Billy Richardson of Fayetteville, Rep. Michael Wray of Northampton County, Rep. Ken Waddell of Columbus County, Rep. Rodney Moore of Charlotte.
While others in their party spoke out strongly against the budget – saying it didn’t do enough for schools, teachers and state employees – several of the nine said they thought the good outweighed the bad.
Adcock said she liked that the budget increased starting teacher pay to $35,000 a year, added more money for textbooks and technology in schools, restored a tax deduction for medical expenses and funded teacher assistants at last year’s levels.
She didn’t like the fact that state employees didn’t get salary raises and that government retirees didn’t get cost-of-living increases. “On balance, when I look at the people in my district and what’s important to them, on balance I felt like I needed to support this budget,” Adcock said.
Goodman listed many of the same selling points in the budget. “I weighed all the positives and negatives, and I think the positives outweighed the negatives,” he said, adding that he also likes a plan to direct additional sales tax revenues to poorer counties, including his district. “I think it’s a pretty good budget for my district. It’s not perfect, but nothing ever is.”
But Goodman said he wishes the budget did more for teachers and public schools.
Moore, who’s serving his third House term, said he believed this was the best budget he’s seen in his tenure. He mentioned $35 million a year to modernize the state ports in Wilmington and Morehead City. “Me being from the southeast and a Wilmington native, the ports are very, very important to me,” he said. “That helps with trade and jobs.”
Moore also responded to potential criticism he could get for supporting a Republican-penned budget, saying each spending plan must be looked at separately, regardless of which party controls the House.
“We have to be pragmatic about how we look at things,” he said. “We’re never going to get all we want out of a budget, but I think this was a budget worth supporting and giving it a chance.”
Hamilton said she voted for the budget primarily because of the return of the historic preservation tax credit, which has been used often to restore old structures in her part of the state.
Rep. Kelly Alexander, a Charlotte Democrat, joined Rep. Howard Hunter of Ahoskie in changing his vote to “yes” on the final midnight tally. Alexander spoke against the budget in earlier in the evening, and he said his criticism still stands.
Knowing that the budget’s passage was a foregone conclusion, Alexander said he changed his vote “just in the spirit of amity and all that good stuff.”
Between the two votes, Alexander took Republican Rep. Paul Stam up on an offer – made during the debate – to discuss some budget provisions over dinner. Alexander said the two didn’t end up talking about policy but instead chatted about football and a book Stam is writing.
“We need to do more of that in order to keep the lines of communication open,” he said. “To the extent that we can do more of that, I think that this place would function a heck of a lot better.”