State Politics

NC House Democrats complain that full budget ‘being held in secret’

House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson, center, is joined by other Democratic legislators in a budget press conference Thursday.
House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson, center, is joined by other Democratic legislators in a budget press conference Thursday. ccampbell@newsobserver.com

It’s not yet clear what teacher and state employee raises will be included in the N.C. House budget, but House Democrats held a news conference Thursday to criticize what they’ve seen so far.

Rep. Darren Jackson, the House Democratic Leader from Knightdale, said the holiday weekend will be the best chance for constituents to weigh in on the $22.9 billion spending plan before next week’s vote, but they won’t have the full picture.

Subcommittees reviewed specific sections of the budget Thursday, and details of tax changes and state employee raises won’t be released until Tuesday. “They have the budget written, but it’s being held in secret,” Jackson said.

“There are a lot of missed opportunities in this budget,” Jackson said, citing programs included in Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget that didn’t make it into the House or Senate plans. That includes $19 million Cooper wants to start a free community college tuition program.

The Democrats blamed Republicans’ insistence on including income tax cuts in the budget. “Tax cuts for millionaires always have to come first in the budget,” Jackson said.

The Senate budget cuts corporate and personal income tax rates while raising the standard deduction. The House plan will be in the full budget next week but is expected to be a smaller tax cut.

“As North Carolina families and businesses know, there’s a stark difference between wasteful spending and smart investing of their hard-earned money,” House Speaker Tim Moore said in a news release praising the budget. “North Carolina House Republicans have improved our state’s approach to budgeting to provide taxpayers with positive outcomes while returning billions in taxes back into the paychecks and pockets of our citizens.”

Jackson said he’s pleased that House budget writers included funding for education programs cut by the Senate in a 3 a.m. budget amendment, but he said he’s disappointed there’s not more money to address the opioid epidemic. The House budget includes a single pilot program in Wilmington.

“That is great for the Wilmington area, but what about the rest of the state?” Jackson said. “There’s not money to do both when there really should be.”

But Jackson said the House budget appears to be an improvement over the Senate version. “Certainly I would classify the House budget as being a step in the right direction,” he said.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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