Commentary

Cooper vetoes budget bill — here’s why

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the Republican-passed budget bill today. The decision came with the strong support of teachers (who flanked the Governor during his announcement) and other progressive advocates for public investments. Alexandra Sirota of the N. C Budget and TaX Center put it this way in a statement praising the veto:

“Governor Cooper showed leadership today by vetoing the N.C. General Assembly’s final budget. Cooper recognized that this final legislative budget puts our state on dangerous fiscal footing, that it shifts costs to local governments, and that it does not invest enough in the things that make North Carolina thrive.

The budget should ultimately reflect our priorities as a state. Governor Cooper made the right choice in vetoing this legislative budget that continues to prioritize corporations and the wealthy few over North Carolina families and communities.”

Here’s Governor Cooper’s official explanation:

Today, Governor Cooper was joined by teachers and other public school personnel to speak about his veto of the budget crafted in secret and passed last week by legislative Republicans.

“The Republican legislature’s budget keeps income tax breaks for corporations and families making over $200,000 a year instead of investing in education,” Governor Cooper said.

Last month, tens of thousands of educators marched in Raleigh in support of higher pay and more resources for public education. Gov. Cooper proposed Tax Fairness for Teacher Pay–freezing additional tax cuts for corporations and families earning more than $200,000 per year and using those funds to raise teacher pay to the national average in four years. Gov. Cooper recommended raises for every teacher, averaging 8%, a stipend for school supplies, and a $130 million investment in improving school safety.

Instead, legislative Republicans chose to protect their tax breaks for wealthy people and corporations at the expense of public schools. The Republican budget failed to provide a raise for all teachers and invested $100 million less than needed in school safety.

“Unfortunately, everyday North Carolinians were shut out from this year’s budget process in an unprecedented authoritarian power grab by legislative leaders,” Gov. Cooper said.

For the first time in modern history, Republican leaders met behind closed doors with lobbyists to craft the budget and refused to receive public input or allow votes on amendments. As North Carolinians learned more about the spending plan, other major shortcomings came to light:

  • New protections for clean drinking water were rolled back at the urging of industry lobbyists
  • Legislation was added protecting the I-77 toll lanes contract, prohibiting changes without legislative approval
  • $50 million in federal funding for early childhood education was redirected in order to fund more tax breaks for the wealthy, leaving tens of thousands of children without access to quality early childhood education
  • No funding for the state’s Suicide Prevention Hotline was included
  • The Infant Screening Fee, a birth tax on new mothers, was tripled
  • New funding for school supplies was provided to districts with Republicans at risk of losing their elections instead of to teachers across the state in the form of a school supply stipend
  • Opportunities for transformative light rail transportation projects that would help with economic development were squashed
  • A plan to expand Medicaid and close the health care coverage gap at no additional cost to the state was rejected
  • A measure that was included would allow cities to raise taxes to establish charter schools that could ultimately lead to increased school segregation
  • $102 million was spent on earmarks in selected legislators’ communities

“The day is coming soon when the state budget will value education, clean water, and health care,” Gov. Cooper said. “But until then, this budget is vetoed.”

For a side-by-side of Gov. Cooper’s budget compared to the Republican legislative budget, click HERE.
For more on Gov. Cooper’s proposed budget, click HERE.
For more on Gov. Cooper’s school safety proposals, click HERE.
For more on Gov. Cooper’s workforce development package, click HERE.
For more on Governor Cooper’s teacher and principal pay plan, click HERE.

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