Cooper vetoes small-minded budget, Republicans plan for override this week

Governor calls teacher pay plan a "gimmick, mirage"

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
FILE PHOTO:Gov. Roy Cooper gives the State of the State address at the North Carolina House of Representatives on March 13.

RALEIGH — On Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper officially announced that he will veto the state budget plan passed by the Republican-led legislature last week, doubling down on his belief that it shortchanges education, teacher pay and only generates tax cuts for the rich.”This budget is short-sighted and small-minded,” Cooper told reporters gathered at the Executive Mansion. “It lacks the vision that our state demands at this critical time of growth and change.”Joined by a group of teachers and administrators, Cooper criticized Republicans for claiming their priorities align with his — saying that the plan they sent to his desk last Thursday “doesn’t even come close” to what he laid out for teacher pay.”Tell me how the $810 million that I purposed for teacher pay matches $470 million that they proposed for teacher pay? It doesn’t,” said the governor. However, Republicans say their budget nearly achieves Cooper’s proposal for a 10 percent average teacher raise, and sets the state on track to meet national averages by 2020. Over the next two years, the Republican plan averages a 9.6 percent raise for teachers — with midcareer educators receiving the bulk of the paycheck bump. “What they do is create a budget gimmick, mirage — leaving out veteran teachers and starting teachers, and say there is almost 10 percent, but it’s only 10 percent for a certain population of teachers,” said Cooper, addressing a question about Republicans’ incremental paycheck increases since taking control of the General Assembly in 2011.”If I could have written the budget for the last five years, we’d already be at the national average,” he added.The budget would raise the current average teacher pay to $51,186 — about $6,800 below the national average of $58,064. The national figure, calculated by the National Education Association, represents average gross salary before taxes and does not take into account cost of living in each state.”And while public education falls by the wayside, it’s the wealthy and the corporations that get more and more, through a tax plan that is so irresponsible that it blows a $600 million hole in our budget down the line,” said Cooper, reiterating a statement he made last week that he believes millionaires will see a tax cut 85 times larger than a middle-class family. Donald Bryson, head of the North Carolina arm of Americans for Prosperity, was quick send out a dig against Cooper’s Democratic Party.”Remember, just six years ago the North Carolina economy was the eighth worst in the country because of the tax-and-spend policies Gov. Cooper now wants to revisit,” Bryson said in a statement encouraging lawmakers to override the governor’s veto. “We cannot let him turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made.”In a press conference last Thursday, leaders from the state’s Republican party — which holds a veto-proof majority in both houses — said they will not hesitate to “quickly override” a veto from Cooper. Insiders say the chambers could be prepared to vote as soon as Tuesday.