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State Budget Director Art Pope will step down next month, and be succeeded by Lee Roberts.

State Budget Director Art Pope will step down next month, and be succeeded by Lee Roberts.

Governor Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that Art Pope will step down as state budget director in September to return to the private sector. Succeeding Pope will be Lee Roberts, a Raleigh banking executive who the governor appointed to the North Carolina Banking Commission last year.

While Pope has been a controversial figure for the administration, McCrory offered nothing but praise for Pope’s service:

“Art Pope has been an invaluable public servant for the people of North Carolina,”

Governor McCrory said. “His knowledge and leadership helped produce historic tax reform while producing two balanced budgets that put North Carolina back on the road to prosperity. He has dedicated much of his life to the betterment of North Carolina and it has been a privilege to have him at my side.”

As for the man tapped to fill those shoes, McCrory said Roberts would help state government ‘thrive':

“Lee has a terrific sense of fiscal sensibility and responsibility, and I’m excited to have him join our team,” said Governor McCrory. “North Carolina state government will thrive under his oversight. His experience in the global marketplace will provide a useful and original perspective, and his leadership skills will further our administration’s goal of thoughtful, deliberate stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”

According to the McCrory administration, Roberts also founded a real estate investment and advisory firm, Coley Capital, LLC. He has worked for Morgan Stanley & Co., Cherokee Investment Partners and as an associate with Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP.

Roberts received his undergraduate degree in political science from Duke University. He graduated cum laude from Georgetown University, where he received his J.D.

Roberts is also the son of political commentator Cokie Roberts.

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Almost a week after House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger announced a budget deal, there is still a tremendous amount of confusion over how much of a raise teachers can expect this fall.

Governor Pat McCrory blamed that uncertainty Tuesday on the NC Association of Educators:

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The editorial board of Raleigh’s News & Observer explained the pay plan this way in Wednesday’s paper:

Senior teachers will get the smallest raises, with those teachers having five or six years experience getting the largest.

What’s known is that one-time money, meaning money that is not guaranteed as annual revenue, is covering the pay hike. That, along with cuts to health and welfare programs and other spending have been used to balance the books. GOP lawmakers also budgeted more lottery revenue for education.

Unreliable funding

The problems with one-time money include a reliance on unpredictable turns in the future, when a crisis or natural disaster could knock a hole in the budget. The General Assembly’s own fiscal staff says that Republican tax cuts could mean a revenue shortfall this year of $700 million and $880 million more than projected over five years.

There’s another wrinkle for local governments like Wake that fund a supplement for teachers based on a percentage of their state salaries: The extra local pay will reflect the state’s uneven raise lines.

Teachers might be forgiven for being a bit skeptical about a pay hike plan that seems built on a shaky foundation. And some of those teachers wonder whether the pay increase will really pull North Carolina up that far, from the near-bottom, in national teacher pay rankings.

Yes, perhaps alarmed by the state’s abysmal ranking and with House Speaker Thom Tillis in a U.S. Senate campaign that will require him to capture more moderate voters, Republicans did provide a raise for teachers, something that polls showed was tremendously popular.

Misplaced optimism

But because of tax cuts – and there will be additional cuts coming – GOP leaders have tied the state’s future to misplaced optimism that the revenue shortfall won’t be as bad as feared or that they’ll be able to cut their way out of a crisis, should one come.

Once again, the inexperience of Republican leaders is showing. Their teacher pay plan does address the need to pay less-experienced teachers more, and that’s good. But more experienced teachers aren’t getting much, which is going to encourage more of them to retire, and that’s not good.

Read the N&O’s full editorial here. For more on how the new state budget impacts teacher pay and other classroom resources, read education reporter Lindsay Wagner’s story here on N.C. Policy Watch’s main website.

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budgetcutsThe NC House gave final approval (66-44) Saturday to a $21.1 Billion state budget. The measure now heads to Gov. McCrory, who said on Friday he would be proud to sign it.

The Director of the NC Budget & Tax Center says the plan places our state on an unsustainable path. Here’s the full statement from Alexandra Forter Sirota:

North Carolinians want a quality education for their children, safe and healthy communities, and protections for those in need, but the final budget fails to reflect these priorities in a fiscally responsible way.

Instead, the budget puts North Carolina on an unsustainable path because policymakers have failed to stop the costly tax cuts that will continue to erode the state’s ability to invest in the building blocks a strong economy.

 

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Senator Jeff Jackson took Senate leaders to task Thursday for rushing to approve the $21.1 billion budget plan just hours after the 260-page document had been made public.

The Mecklenburg County Democrat, appointed in May to  replace former state Senator Dan Clodfelter, chastised the chamber for failing to include any members of minority party in the extensive negotiations, then rushing to pass the mammoth spending package before lawmakers could fully read it:

“I could bring ten people in off the street, explain to each of them how this budget was made, and everyone of them would tell you they expect more from us,” said Jackson.

“You’re going to say Democrats did it worse. And you are right, you’re absolutely right. But in carrying on this legacy, you’re wrong. You’ve mislearned all of those lessons.

Being in power means being able to change things for the better. This isn’t just the way it works, this isn’t just the way it’s always worked. It’s wrong. And maybe it takes the new kid on the block to tell you that, but so be it.”

The state budget won final Senate approved around 12:30 a.m. Friday. House members take up the bill this hour, and hope to give it their final approval early Saturday morning.

House and Senate leaders have postponed any decisions on coal ash regulations until mid-November, after the elections.

Click below to hear some of Sen. Jackson’s remarks on the Senate floor:

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