RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — With raises for teachers and school employees on hold as the school year begins, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) on Tuesday urged state lawmakers to reach a resolution on the state budget by the end of the month.
Cooper met with teachers at the “Tools4Schools” store in Cary, which is run by WakeEd Partnership. The store offers educators free supplies.
“Come in and work nights and weekends if necessary, but get a budget done by the end of this month,” said Cooper.
Republican lawmakers have met for the last several months trying to reach an agreement on the state budget. The new fiscal year began July 1 with no resolution.
They’ve resolved key aspects of it including how much to cut state income taxes and how high the pay raises should be for teachers and state workers. They have not disclosed publicly any details. There are a variety of other issues still being discussed as part of the broader budget, and it remains unclear when the legislature will hold votes.
Republican leaders have said they don’t expect that to happen until mid-September at the earliest.
As those talks continue, they’re discussing legalizing additional gaming including four casinos and video lottery terminals. Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) denied that the gaming issue is holding up the budget.
“The fact that the casino question is still out there is not in any way, shape, manner or form slowing things down,” he said. “Casino revenue is not necessary to address the tax reductions that we have already agreed to.”
He pointed to other issues, such as Republicans attempting to reach an agreement on how to spend one-time money on projects such as water and sewer upgrades.
While it’s common for the state budget to be enacted late, Gov. Cooper pointed to the historically high job vacancy rates in state government and schools.
He criticized Republicans for convening last week to override his vetoes of various bills, including some impacting the LGBTQ community, and leaving Raleigh again with no resolution to the budget.
“They show up for seven hours and pass a number of horrible bills and go home,” he said.
Heather Cassidy, a third-grade teacher at York Elementary School in Wake County, stopped by the Tools4Schools store on Tuesday.
She’s entering her 22nd year in the profession and pointed to the challenges people are facing.
“Most of us are working more than one job just to make ends meet and with inflation, we can’t make ends meet,” she said.
The back-to-school season is expected to be the most expensive ever for families, according to the National Retail Federation.
The NRF found the average family expects to spend about $890 this year, which is a 30 percent increase over what they expected to spend five years ago.
Cassidy said with many teachers spending their own money to get supplies for the classrooms, she’s concerned about the delay in authorizing raises.
“Sadly, it’s no surprise but it’s still disheartening that we are waiting. And, what we’re waiting for may not be anything that’s going to help us tremendously,” she said.
While Republicans have suggested they could pass so-called “mini budgets” to enact the parts of the budget they agree on, that’s not a step they’re planning to take for now. They say any raises that are eventually approved will be retroactive to July 1.