Politics & Government

Gov. Cooper criticizes budget during CPCC visit but won’t say he’ll veto it

Cooper blasts NC budget

N.C. Senate Republicans have major disagreements with Gov. Roy Cooper on how much to spend in next year’s budget and whether to cut taxes.
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N.C. Senate Republicans have major disagreements with Gov. Roy Cooper on how much to spend in next year’s budget and whether to cut taxes.

Gov. Roy Cooper criticized the state budget, being approved by legislators this week, during a visit to Charlotte on Wednesday but didn’t say whether he would veto it.

Cooper, speaking at Central Piedmont Community College, cited tax cuts that he said would benefit the wealthy and the size of teacher pay raises as among his concerns.

“I don’t like it, I think it’s wrong for our state, it doesn’t have the vision that we need, and it’s fiscally irresponsible,” he said.

The N.C. House approved the $23.03 billion compromise budget 77-40 Wednesday, and the state Senate passed the budget plan 38-11. A final vote by the House is set for Thursday.

Sen. Joel Ford, who is running for Charlotte mayor, was one of the four Democrats in the Senate to support the budget.

He said that while the budget is not perfect, it provides pay raises for teachers and state employees.

He said he also approved of the budget because of its $250,000 appropriation for Renaissance West, a community initiative program in Charlotte that promotes economic mobility.

“I understand the governor’s position and his reasoning, but … I felt it was important to make sure that we put the city in a better position to be successful,” he said.

The budget would give teachers an average pay raise of 3.3 percent, and would raise many state employees’ pay by a flat $1,000. Retired state employees would receive a 1 percent, permanent cost-of-living increase in their pension checks.

Cooper said he doesn’t think the Democratic legislators who voted for the budget agree that teachers were given enough of a salary increase.

“We’re not going to get where we want to be with teacher salaries with the plan they’ve laid out,” he said.

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Davie Hinshaw dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, said if Cooper vetoes the budget, it will risk many provisions, including no longer automatically charging 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for all crimes.

The budget also includes a series of tax cuts in 2019, reducing the personal income tax rate to 5.25 percent from 5.499 percent. It would raise the standard deduction – the amount on which people pay no income taxes unless they itemize – to $20,000 for married couples filing jointly from $17,500. The corporate income tax rate would also be lowered to 2.5 percent from 3 percent.

Cooper said the tax break for those making $1 million or more is 85 times higher than the tax break for middle-class families.

“You’re sacrificing our future for these tax giveaways for the wealthy instead of investing in education and economic development,” he said.

Rep. Scott Stone, R-Mecklenburg, said the budget sets the state up for a good financial standing – including setting aside enough money for the state’s rainy day fund.

He said 8 percent of the budget is suggested to be placed into a rainy day fund each fiscal year. The budget places $1.84 billion into the fund, meeting the guideline for the first time in years, he said.

“We are now in better financial shape than almost any state in the country,” Stone said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect appropriation for Renaissance West, a community initiative program in Charlotte that promotes economic mobility. The budget provides $250,000.

The (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.

Caroline Metzler: 704-358-5433, @crmetzler

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