State Politics

Cooper says NC can afford a more generous budget

Republican leaders in the Senate and House aren’t willing to spend what it takes to make North Carolina a better-educated and more prosperous state, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said in a news conference on the budget Monday.

“I’m looking for more vision from this budget,” Cooper said. “They don’t have to squirrel it all away or give it to those who already have.”

Cooper said he hopes to work with legislative leaders in the coming weeks as they craft a compromise between the proposal that passed the House and the one approved by the Senate.

He called on rank-and-file Republicans in the General Assembly, as well as the business community and the general public, to push for a final budget that more closely reflects the aspirations the governor campaigned on.

Republicans say their past conservative budgets have led to a $580 million surplus this year. They point to tax cuts and increases in teacher pay as highlights of their latest proposals.

“Even as Gov. Cooper claims he wants to work in good faith on budget negotiations, he is again stubbornly refusing to consider any ideas outside of his own backward-looking proposal that delivers zero tax cuts to North Carolina families and would return us to the days of out-of-control spending, budget shortfalls and teacher furloughs,” Senate leader Phil Berger’s spokeswoman Shelly Carver said in a statement.

“As we finalize the budget, Senate Republicans will remain focused on improving outcomes in public education, providing generous tax cuts to the middle class and job-creating businesses, and saving for the future – and we encourage him to join us.”

Teacher raises proposed by the House and Senate would vary depending on experience. The average teacher raise for next year in the House plan is 3.3 percent. In the Senate plan, it’s 3.7 percent.

According to legislative staff estimates, tax cuts proposed by the House would reduce revenue by $122 million in the fiscal year beginning in July and $234 million in the following fiscal year. The Senate tax cut package would reduce revenue by $324 million in the next fiscal year and more than $710 million in following years.

Asked if he would support any tax cut, Cooper pointed to a child-care tax credit in his budget proposal, which he said would be the most important tax cut that could be provided for the middle class. The legislature’s budget and tax proposals, he contends, give breaks to the wealthy and “giveaways” to corporations, and will prevent the state from reaching those goals.

“The Senate tax package blows a hole in the budget,” he said.

Cooper noted his budget doesn’t require a tax increase, although it does require more spending than the legislature’s.

Both the House and Senate have passed budgets totaling $22.9 billion, but they disagree on how that money should be allocated. Cooper would spend $23.4 billion.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

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