Cooper still open to compromise with Republicans on budget impasse

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) on Thursday said he’s still open to compromising with Republican legislative leaders on the impasse over the state budget, but it’s unclear what that resolution would be.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly adjourned Tuesday until April 28 without overriding Cooper’s veto of the state budget, an action Cooper took in late June. The state has not approved raises for educators, and it’s not clear if they will by the end of the school year.

“Well, what you have now is a legislature that wants to continue to cut corporate taxes,” Cooper told CBS 17. “We need meaningful raises for teacher pay. So, we can’t let them get away with paltry raises.”

On Tuesday, Democrats declined to join Republicans in overriding Cooper’s veto of a bill that would have given teachers an average raise of 3.9 percent over two years, with that amount going higher if Democrats also agreed to override Cooper’s veto of the entire budget.

Democrats said the legislature should provide more than that and continue negotiating.

“And the alternative to that is zero? How do you negotiate with that?” asked Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R). “We need to get these pay raises to our teachers. So, the fact that they voted it down, I think they’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”

When Cooper proposed his own budget last year, he called for an average raise of 9.1 percent for teachers. He later revised that to 8.5 percent as a compromise proposal.

“We have seen no indication that the legislative leadership wants to try to meet us somewhere in the middle. We have presented a compromise proposal. We have heard nothing,” Cooper said Thursday.

Cooper has suggested negotiating teacher pay independent of everything else in the budget, an idea Republican Senate leader Phil Berger has rejected.

“His contrary requests at the present time are, in my view, cynical political posturing. We could have seen a negotiated compromise resolution of the entire budget. But, Gov. Cooper refused to sign any budget,” Berger said. “I’m just telling you that we’ve been doing this since last spring, and we keep ending up in the same place.”

State law includes annual step raises for some teachers but not for employees like teacher assistant Erica Johnson.

“Simply stated, without us, schools cannot function. And yet, we are the lowest-paid educators in the school system,” she said. “Other state employees who do exactly the same jobs have already been granted 5 percent pay raises.”

While Cooper said he’s still hopeful state leaders will find a resolution to the impasse, Sen. Berger expressed doubt about that this week, acknowledging the situation could last through the 2020 election.

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