North Carolina Governor Cooper announces he will sign two-year budget bill
RALEIGH, North Carolina
North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday that he would sign the final two-year budget bill of the legislature once it reaches his office, saying the good contained in the bill drafted by Republicans “prevails over evil”.
Holding a press conference as the Senate convened to discuss the budget plan, Cooper said there were many “missed opportunities” and several areas he opposes. But he said the state needs a comprehensive budget plan – there hasn’t been one since mid-2019 – to meet the needs of schools, small businesses and families as North Carolina emerging from the pandemic.
The bill contains significant increases and bonuses for teachers and state employees, a pay floor of $ 15 an hour will arrive next year for local school employees who are not teachers and $ 5.9 billion for state agencies and higher education construction projects. There are also personal and corporate income tax cuts, as well as tax breaks for businesses still struggling in the recovery from COVID-19.
“I will sign this budget because of its critical and necessary investments, and I will fight to correct its mistakes,” Cooper told reporters.
Cooper already signaled his willingness to sign the bill last week after he, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House of Commons Speaker Tim Moore engaged in serious negotiations for nearly two months. With a spending plan four and a half months overdue, North Carolina is currently the only state in the country without an adopted budget, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Yet the governor could have vetoed the bill or let it become law without his signature. Cooper’s announcement opened the door for nearly two-thirds of the 22 Senate Democrats to join all Republicans present in the 40-8 vote for the final bill on Tuesday afternoon. Another Senate vote was expected on Wednesday, when the House also scheduled the first of its two required votes.
Previously, Cooper had never enacted a traditional, comprehensive state budget since taking office in 2017. During Cooper’s first two years, Republicans overrode his budget vetoes with veto-proof majorities . In 2019, after Democrats won seats and Cooper tied the budget to an unsuccessful attempt to extend Medicaid to hundreds of thousands more residents, his veto could not be overruled by Republicans, which led to a standoff with GOP leaders that was never fully resolved.
Republicans still lacked non-veto majorities this year. But with massive state revenue surpluses combined with billions in federal aid for COVID-19, more Democrats seemed willing to push through a budget that also contained sweeteners that benefit their communities. Republicans gained influence when they managed to secure “yes” votes on earlier versions of budget legislation from more than a dozen Democrats – more than enough for a waiver if they remained loyal to Republicans.
“The fact that a number of Democrats indicated their support for the budget must have played a role in (Cooper’s) decision,” said Berger, a Republican from Rockingham County. But he said there had been a lot of give and take to create a bill. This reflects Cooper’s contribution. The governor highlighted in part $ 1 billion in federal funding for broadband expansion and more for water and sewage improvements.
“This budget has its fingerprints all over the place,” Berger said.
Still, Cooper said on Tuesday he still believed Senate Democrats could have maintained a veto, but said he was concerned Republican lawmakers would simply walk away from budget negotiations if that happened.
The nearly 1,400 pages of budget documents contain several provisions on GOP policy against which the second-term governor rebelled. They include a plan to eliminate the state’s already low 2.5% corporate tax rate by the end of the decade, although the elimination would not begin until early 2025. The rate Personal income tax would also drop over time from 5.25% to 3.99%. , from next year.
“There are many years of fighting for a fairer tax system in our state that gives tax cuts to low and middle income families rather than those who need them least,” said Cooper.
Senatorial Minority Leader Dan Blue of Wake County voted against the bill, criticizing in a ground speech a structural deficit he said tax cuts would lead to and how several urban counties fail would not benefit from $ 100 million in salary supplements for teachers. “I had higher hopes for this budget, both in the process and in the end result,” he said.
The measure also does not contain Cooper’s desire to expand Medicaid through the 2010 federal health care law. Instead, the bill would authorize a committee to study access to health care and recommend a bill next year.
Cooper might also have to live with new rules that would limit his emergency powers, such as during the pandemic. The language says that a governor should receive the support of a majority of state council members to extend a declaration of emergency beyond 30 days. The General Assembly should act to go beyond 60 days. The governor vetoed a bill with similar language two weeks ago, complaining in part that it would have gone into effect immediately. The budgetary provision delays the start up until January 2023.
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Anderson is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.
History corrects Dan Blue’s title as Minority Leader in the Senate, not the House.