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Gov. Cooper: “It may be the most fiscally irresponsible budget I’ve ever seen.”

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a press conference Tuesday, expressing disappointment with the budget proposed by legislative leaders.

Gov. Roy Cooper will push for both Democrats and Republicans to vote against the state budget proposed by legislative leaders this week.

“It may be the most fiscally irresponsible budget I’ve ever seen,” Cooper said in a press conference Tuesday.

Cooper said the compromise version of the budget released late Monday was worse than either the House or Senate versions of the budget.

“In comparison, their overall spending is higher than the two budgets but teacher pay is lower than the two budgets,” Cooper said. “That is a demonstration of priorities that are out of line.”

“To put it simply, this budget prioritized tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations and short-changes education and economic development,” Cooper said. “It does pick winners and losers – the wealthy win, but the average middle class family loses. Education loses. Economic development loses. People struggling with opioid abuse lose.”

Cooper said he was surprised and disappointed to see significant funding for combating the opioid problem – something on which there seemed to be bipartisan agreement – left out of the version of the budget released this week.

“It actually makes cuts in mental health, which is going to hurt the fight against opioids,” Cooper said. “So I’m deeply concerned about that.”

Cooper also criticized the tax plan outlined by the budget.

“Under this budget a person earning a million dollars or more per year will get a tax break that is 85 times larger than what a working family gets,” Cooper said. “Think about that for a minute. Eighty-five times larger. The tax plan in this budget will blow a major hole in our budget just a few years down the road, handcuffing our ability to invest in education and the economy, handcuffing our ability to make teacher pay the highest in the Southeast in three years and at least to the national average in five years.”

But the largest problems are with the deficiencies in the budget that will hurt North Carolinians now, Cooper said – including no more money for teachers who pay for materials out of their own pockets and a short-changing of early childhood education.

“And while public schools are in so much need, this budget drains money from the public school system to pay for private school vouchers,” Cooper said.

The governor stopped short of saying he would veto the budget.

“If this budget does pass – I look forward to a strong debate – I’ll let you know as soon as it hits my desk,” Cooper said. “But as you can see right now, I think this budget is wrong for North Carolina.”

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