Gov. Cooper vetoes 4 bills impacting teacher raises, corporate tax cuts

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday morning announced he had vetoed four bills impacting educator raises and corporate tax cuts in North Carolina.

Surrounded by teachers at the Executive Mansion, Cooper vetoed H231 (UNC System & Community College Pay) and S354 (Strengthening Educator Pay Act). Cooper called for the legislature to “make a meaningful raise a priority for educators,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Cooper also vetoed what his office called a “fiscally irresponsible corporate tax cuts bill.”

“I will negotiate the pay raises of teachers and other educators separate and apart from Medicaid expansion,” Cooper said at the press conference. “I urge all legislators from both parties to help us come together and support our teachers.”

The pay plan Cooper vetoed included average raises of nearly 4% over two years for teachers, with the raises weighted toward veteran teachers. He said the funding is available to give educators more and cited Republican proposals to do just that.

Cooper called attention to a press release sent Thursday by Republican Senate leader Phil Berger, in which he proposed a new pay plan.

“The offer provides a 4.9% raise for all teachers – including veteran teachers – plus a one-time $1,000 bonus, as well as various concessions on matters like the location of (the Department of Health and Human Services) headquarters,” the statement read.

Cooper said he would support that if the agreement was not conditional on Democrats joining Republicans in overriding his veto of the overall budget.

He said he’s prepared to find a “middle ground” with Republicans and negotiate educator raises separately from other outstanding budget issues.

Margaret Powell, a data manager at a Wake County middle school, stood with the governor Friday and supported his decision.

“We make sacrifices. A lot of us have to play juggle or Bingo with what bills we want to pay this week or what bill we want to pay the next week,” she said. “I really think that’s not fair if we come and we do a great job and we make sure our schools are safe for our students.”

In addition to H231 and S354, Cooper also vetoed S578 (Reduce Franchise Tax) and H398 (Information Technology Budget).

The governor released statements explaining his vetoes of all four bills.

Regarding the UNC System & Community College Pay bill that he vetoed, Cooper said:

“The General Assembly shortchanges our universities and community colleges and their employees, as well as state retirees, despite a robust economy and decent raises for other state employees. Higher education is North Carolina’s best economic development tool, and we must invest in education to keep it that way.”

Explaining his veto on the Strengthening Educator Pay Act, Cooper said:

“The General Assembly continues to shortchange teachers and non-certified school personnel like cafeteria workers, bus drivers and teacher assistants, despite a robust economy and decent raises for other state employees. Educators deserve more if our schools are to remain competitive with other states and keep good teachers.”

The governor explained his veto of the Reduce Franchise Tax bill, he said:

“This legislation prioritizes corporate tax cuts over investments in education and would further erode state revenue at the same time the General Assembly is underinvesting in schools. Cutting taxes for corporations at more than $1 billion over five years will hurt North Carolina’s future.”

The release states “though [S578] does create some language around economically advantageous film industry incentives, it does not make needed funding provisions for the grant program.”

Cooper explained his veto of the Information Technology Budget bill by saying:

“This legislation fails to adequately fund state cybersecurity and data analytics needs while sending a substantial capital earmark outside the state’s proven university system.”

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) released a statement firing back at Cooper over his vetoes, saying:

“Teachers are told to be good, loyal Democrats and their union and their Governor will take care of them. But they need to ask themselves: ‘What has Roy Cooper ever done for me?’ He’s vetoed every single teacher pay raise that’s come across his desk, and he chose today to give teachers nothing for the next two years. Governor Cooper uses teachers as pawns, blocking their pay increases then trying to convince them it’s all the Republicans’ fault. At some point, they’ll see his cynical ploy for what it really is.”

Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) also sent a release blasting Cooper’s vetoes, saying:

“North Carolina’s remarkable rally in the national teacher pay rankings since 2014 has all been in spite of Gov. Cooper’s vetoes of higher take-home pay for educators. His refusal to raise teacher pay in favor of playing political games on separate issues is causing real harm to educators’ families, who benefited immensely from pay raises until he took office and began blocking them to pursue his other priorities. Instead of having more money over the holidays, teachers will continue to wait for Gov. Cooper to put their needs ahead of other issues.”

Cooper’s office said in the release that two weeks ago “Cooper requested separate negotiations solely on teacher pay, in light of recent piecemeal mini-budgets the legislature has chosen to appropriate.”

Earlier in the summer, the governor proposed a Compromise Budget that, according to his office, “would close the health care coverage gap, raise teacher pay, cut taxes for people and guarantee school construction while balancing the budget and saving money in the Rainy Day Fund.”

The compromise included an 8.5% raise for teachers over two years. Cooper’s first budget requested a 9.1% average raise. Republicans proposed a 2% raise for teachers in 2019-20 and a 1.8% raise in 2020-21.

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