Republican Leaders Urge Cooper To Sign North Carolina Budget
North Carolina Republican legislative leaders dared Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday to sign the state budget soon heading to his desk — a very unlikely result, given the repeated criticisms of both Cooper and other Democrats.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, holding a news conference before the final House vote on the two-year spending plan, said it contains middle-class tax cuts, teacher pay raises of nearly 10 percent on average over two years, and money for reserves and Hurricane Matthew relief that Cooper had sought publicly. The Senate already approved the budget agreement Wednesday.
"The people of North Carolina expect their elected officials to keep their word," Berger told reporters. "Governor, if the things you've said and campaigned on are more than just empty promises, you will sign this budget."
The more anticipated result of the final budget, which already cleared the Senate earlier this week, is a Cooper veto. The governor said the two-year spending plan is fiscally irresponsible and fails to provide enough for education and economic development.
But Republicans have more than enough votes to overcome the Democrat's objections: "We will quickly override your veto," Berger said.
The Republican plan would increase teacher salaries by 9.6 percent on average, but limit permanent raises to the most veteran teachers to $300, not including $385 annual bonuses. And while across-the-board tax rate cuts for all North Carolina residents would provide relief to low- and middle-income teachers, they would enable the highest wage earners and corporations to also keep the most cash.
"The governor should highly consider vetoing it, and if he does we'll stand behind him," House Minority Leader Darren Jackson of Wake County said. There are "a lot of things that are done in here for petty, partisan reasons."
The budget bill cuts funding for the office of the governor and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein, and earmarks tens of millions of dollars for local governments or nonprofit groups that could have been used for statewide needs.
Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, said there are always things in every budget bill that people don't like, but imperfections shouldn't stop people from supporting a budget that moves the state forward.
Moore noted that a provision in the 438-page bill attempts to attract a large manufacturer by expanding economic incentives for a company that invests at least $4 billion and creates at least 5,000 jobs. Moore wouldn't identify the company or describe other details, but he said the provision was worked out with Cooper's Department of Commerce.
"We're on the cusp in this state of potentially landing a major industry in this state," Moore said. "Why in the world would the governor not want to be on board signing this?"