‘I will fight to fix its mistakes’: N.C. Gov. Cooper says he will sign state budget despite ‘missed opportunities’
During the last two-year legislative session, Republicans and Democrats were never able to reach an agreement
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says he will sign a budget that would give pay raises to many state workers, he announced Tuesday afternoon.
Cooper said he will sign the budget into law despite “missed opportunities” and “politically and unnecessary missteps.”
“I will sign the budget, because unbalanced, the good outweighs the bad,” Cooper said. “It moves North Carolina forward in important ways, many of which are critical in the state’s progress as we are emerging from this pandemic.”
The budget passed through the Senate with a 40-8 vote.
The vote will next go to the House before landing on Cooper’s desk.
“This budget continues the Republican-led legislature’s decade-long commitment to low taxes and responsible spending,” Senate leader Phil Berger said. “The multibillion-dollar surpluses these policies helped create are evidence that they’re working, and it means we can cut taxes even more.”
In a press release, Berger says it was expected the North Carolina legislature would vote on the budget this week.
“We have made significant progress over nearly two months of good-faith negotiations with the Governor, and I’m optimistic that the budget will have a strong bipartisan vote and that Gov. Cooper will sign it into law,” Sen. Berger said.
North Carolina hasn’t passed a new budget in years and is the last state in the country to adopt a budget. During the last two-year legislative session, Republicans and Democrats were never able to reach an agreement.
“While I believe this is a budget of some missed opportunities and misguided policy, it is a budget we desperately need at this unique time in the history of our state,” Cooper said.
Highlights of this proposed budget include:
- The budget would total $25.9 billion for 2021-22 and $27 billion for 2022-23.
- A 5 percent pay raise for most state employees and an average 5 percent pay raise for teachers over the biennium.
- Increasing the minimum wage for all non-certified personnel and community college staff to $15 per hour beginning in 2022.
- A $2,800 bonus to most teachers using federal funds.
- Provides a 5 percent supplement for state retirees over the biennium.
- Bonuses for all state employees using federal funds: $1,500 for state employees who make less than $75,000, and $1,000 for state employees who make more than $75,000. Law enforcement, correctional officers and staff, and 24-hour residential or treatment facility employees receive $1,500.
- $100 million in recurring funds for a new state-funded teacher salary supplement focused on low-wealth counties to help them compete with big, wealthy counties when recruiting teachers. (This supplement is not reflected in the average salary raise figure.)
- $1 billion for broadband expansion.
- Increases zero-tax bracket to $25,500.
- Cuts the personal income tax rate from 5.25% to 3.99% by 2027, starting with 4.99% in 2022.
- Increases child tax deduction by $500 per child.
- Eliminates state income tax on military pensions.
- Additional $1.5 billion above the base budget over the biennium in recurring funds for K-12 education.
- The rainy day fund would be increased to $4.25 billion.
- $6 billion in cash to the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund over the biennium to fund infrastructure projects and pay down debt.
- Annual cash contributions to capital and infrastructure projects and debt service totaling $16.1 billion over 10 years.
- $84 million to Elizabeth City State University for a residence hall, sky bridge, dining facility, and flight school.
- $528 million transfer over the biennium from the N.C. Education Lottery to the Needs-Based Public School Capital Building Fund, $200 million to the Public School Capital Fund, and $80 million into a newly created repair and renovations fund. Over the course of the next 7 years, a projected $2.6 billion will be spent on school capital.
- Adds Fayetteville State University to the N.C. Promise program, which guarantees $500 in-state tuition per semester at participating schools.
- Appropriates remaining 2020 HAVA funds to enhance technology and improve cybersecurity.
- Revises Emergency Management Act to require a vote of the Council of State to extend a statewide emergency beyond 30 days (effective Jan. 1, 2023).
- Prohibits collusive settlements by the Attorney General.
- Provides $283 million to support deepening and expanding the Wilmington Harbor.
“This budget got many things right, expanding high-speed internet across the state so that people can access education and telehealth and work’ funding for our outstanding universities and community colleges, particularly our HBCUs, that are educating out workforce; helping our businesses recover from pandemic losses and expanding to create jobs; strengthening our infrastructure so our state has clean and reliable water; the expansion of the land and water and parks and recreation trust funds; funding to help Western North Carolina recover from Tropical Storm Fred; raises and bonuses for hard-working teachers and state employees; tax relief for every day North Carolinians,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the budget failed to recognize important issues.
“This budget fails to extend healthcare to hundreds of thousands of people by expanding Medicaid. Real action remains painfully overdue and I will keep fighting for it,” Cooper said. “The legislature directs future tax breaks more toward corporations of the wealthy rather than the middle class or lower-income people. This budget makes politically and unnecessary missteps that should be overturned in courts.”
Gov. Roy Cooper said he would sign it into law, even though he didn’t get everything he wants.
“By signing this budget, I want to make it clear I do not consent to the constitutionality of these provisions,” Cooper said.
Cooper said his decision to sign the budget into law is based on what is best for the people of North Carolina.
“Our schools, communities, small businesses, and families need our help right now, especially as we recover from this pandemic,” Cooper said. “I will sign this budget because of its critical and necessary investments and I will fight to fix its mistakes.”
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