THE RALEIGH REPORT
July 13, 2019
The claim by Republicans that Governor Roy Cooper is not negotiating budget differences in good faith could not be further from the truth.
They say the Governor is focused solely on Medicaid expansion, that he has nothing else to say. In reality, the Governor's budget proposal is significantly better than any of the Republican proposals on many issues important to North Carolina voters.
The budget process starts by having all parties agree on availability. That's important to remember; everyone works with the same numbers. The Governor released his proposal on March 7. The Republicans released their behind-closed-doors version, HB 966, on April 25. It passed the House on May 3 with all but one Democrat voting NO.
The Senate made revisions that the House rejected; the bill was sent to a conference committee. The House passed the conference report on June 26, again with all Democrats but one voting NO. The Senate passed it on June 27th; the Governor vetoed the bill on June 28th.
On July 7, the Governor presented his compromise budget with key concessions. It is still significantly better than the Republican's best efforts. The main reason for the differences? Republicans, despite the agreed upon availability, applied an arbitrary spending cap that reduced availability by almost $1 billion - so they could cut taxes for corporations.
"This is a bad bill with the wrong priorities," the Governor wrote in the veto message to the General Assembly. "We should be investing in public schools, teacher pay, and health care instead of more tax breaks for corporations."
Another major difference: The Governor wants a $3.9 billion bond for school construction, the UNC system, community colleges and other infrastructure. The Republicans are setting aside 4% recurring dollars from the General Fund for capital projects and debt service. That further reduces their ability to invest in education and other essential services. It also handicaps future budget writers.
The Governor's budget increases teacher salaries by an average of 8.5% over two years with no plateaus and a raise for every teacher. It also restores extra pay for teachers with masterís degrees, includes substitute teacher pay so teachers donít have to pay them out of their own pockets. The Republicans propose an average teacher raise of 3.8% plus a one-time bonus.
State employees, including UNC and community college staff, also fare much better with the Governorís compromise. It provides a 5% raise for state employees, 5% for non-certified school personnel, 5% for UNC employees, and 4% for community college employees. Under the Republican conference budget, only 27% of state workers received the 5% raise that was promised while non-certified school personnel got a 2% raise, UNC employees received a 1% raise, and community college employees received a 2% raise.
Governor Cooper's budget increases state employee retirees' cost-of-living adjustment to 2%. This is up from 1% in the Republican conference budget.
The Governor accepts the Republican's tax cuts for tax individuals and families by raising the standard deduction. The Republican conference budget includes an additional $400 million in corporate tax cuts.
The Governor compromised again by maintaining private school vouchers in the base budget for those who now use them, but eliminating additional money and special provisions that expand and promote additional private school vouchers. The Governor's proposal also increases our investment in early childhood education and Smart Start to cover more children.
Republicans made major cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services by funding $42 million of staff salaries with one-time money rather than recurring funds. They even failed to fully fund the Medicaid rebase that projects essential costs for new enrollees.
Governor Cooper restored the cuts to DHHS to provide flexibility on Medicaid transformation to managed care, with a special budget provision that allows the department to tap the Medicaid Contingency Fund if needed.
In addition: Yes, the Governor's budget expands Medicaid healthcare coverage for 500,000 to 600,000 working North Carolinians, including 64,281 in our county Ė with all the many benefits that come and at no additional cost to North Carolina tax payers.
For a spreadsheet on the compromise proposal with specific numbers please click HERE.
P.S. I believe Democrats will stand firm with the Governor on the budget veto. We know the 2020 elections and the 2021 redistricting are at risk.
How to Engage
It's tough to keep track of what is happening. Here are some ways to stay involved.
1. Call me or my legislative assistant Young Bae at 919-733-7208 or email me at Inskola@ncleg.net with How can I get involved in the subject line.
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