Berger: Democrats to sustain governor’s veto of NC budget

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina lawmakers left Raleigh Tuesday with no resolution to the impasse over the state budget, including what to pay teachers and other school employees.

Sen. Phil Berger (R) said Tuesday morning that Senate Democrats informed him they will sustain Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the budget.

Berger called this move “a significant missed opportunity for the state.”

“Senate Democrats have decided that political loyalty to Governor Cooper and his Medicaid expansion ultimatum is more important than funding for their districts, funding for HBCUs, more important than raises for North Carolina’s educators,” he said.

In an interview with CBS 17’s Michael Hyland on Monday, Berger said the vetoed budget was good for North Carolina as it helped continue recent economic growth.

Cooper vetoed the budget in June for a variety of reasons. Among them, he criticized the spending plan for not including Medicaid expansion and not giving raises to teachers that he felt were high enough.

The Republican-controlled House already voted to override Cooper’s veto in September.

Since then, no Senate Democrats have been willing to break with the governor.

During a debate Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake) urged legislators to stay in Raleigh and negotiate a compromise on teacher pay that could get the governor’s signature.

Sen. Berger called a vote on whether to override Cooper’s veto of a bill passed in October that would have provided teachers an average 3.9 percent raise over two years. The raise would go higher if Democrats agreed to also override Cooper’s veto of the full budget bill. At the time, Cooper called the raises “paltry.”

The override broke along party lines, with 28 senators voting in favor of the override and 21 against. That did not meet the three-fifths majority needed to override a veto.

The General Assembly is not scheduled to return to session until April 28. Berger said he doubts anyone’s positions on the budget will change between now and then, meaning the fiscal year could end in late June with no resolution to the impasse and no raises approved for educators beyond the annual step increases that some teachers receive.

Tyler Swanson, a teacher at Enloe Magnet High School, said, “November is coming, whether they like it or not. And, we have lawmakers who might be able to go to a permanent home and sit down and reassess their decisions when they were here making laws. And, hopefully we’ll see that.”

Cooper’s office released a statement on the legislative session:

Public officials are elected to do the hard work of governing and find compromises, but Republican leaders are refusing to negotiate a teacher pay raise and saying that they are not going to pass any budget at all this year. This shows the outrageous lengths legislative leaders will go to avoid negotiating with the Governor, and it’s time for them to end their partisan obstruction.”

Last fall, the Governor offered repeated budget compromise proposals that would do more to raise teacher pay and fund new school construction. And while the Republicans passed mini budgets, the Governor offered to negotiate teacher pay separately from other issues. Each time Republican leaders refused.

Instead Republicans have demanded a spending plan that prioritizes more corporate tax cuts while shortchanging teacher pay and funding for new school construction and cutting resources for healthcare and clean air and water protections.

The Governor’s initial budget called for a 9.1% average raise for teachers and he offered a compromise proposal with an 8.5% raise over two years. Legislative Republicans’ budget included a paltry 3.8% increase, or 1.9% per year. The Governor’s compromise proposal also provides more for non-certified school personnel and retirees.

Legislators also failed to fully fund the Children of Wartime Veterans Scholarship program, leaving students in the lurch at the end of the semester. Governor Cooper directed DMVA to use funds budgeted for the spring semester to ensure that scholarship recipients were not impacted in December. However, legislators must provide $2.4 million to prevent a similar shortfall this spring.

Office of Gov. Roy Cooper

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