December 7, 2021

North Carolina budget proposal to be unveiled Monday

North Carolina lawmakers are poised to release a new budget proposal Monday, according to Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper said that Republican legislative leaders told him they would unveil the spending plan with increased education funding and a number of the governor’s priorities. The announcement follows months of negotiations prolonged beyond the start of the fiscal year.

The legislature was supposed to decide how the state should spend more than $50 billion over the biennium by June 30. The current fiscal year started on July 1. The spending bill would cover the state’s expenses from then until the end of June 2023. However, the House and the Senate could not agree on a proposal. Lawmakers also decided to get Cooper involved in the final negotiations.

Cooper vetoed the last biennium budget in 2019 because he said it did not include Medicaid expansion or enough for increasing teacher pay. He told his teacher advisory committee in late October that higher teacher pay was one of the reasons for the holdup on the budget.

Cooper confirmed Wednesday that the new proposal does not include Medicaid expansion because the House speaker could not get enough Republican members to support it. Republicans, however, have agreed to increase education spending, which Cooper said was a top priority in negotiations.

Cooper told his teacher advisory committee that he asked for a 10% raise for teachers in his proposal and higher pay for teacher assistants and school nurses, psychologists and counselors. Previous proposals for the two fiscal years were lower than the governor’s request.

Educators would see a 3% pay increase under the current published Senate plan. The published House plan would provide 2.5% raises for most state employees, and teachers would see step raises around 5.5%. Other school personnel would receive $13 an hour in pay during the first fiscal year and $15 an hour pay during the second fiscal year under the House plan. The Senate plan sets pay for the same workers at $13 an hour over the two years. The House also restored advanced degree supplements for the first time.

North Carolina has received an F grade for its education funding level from the Education Law Center (ELC). The state spends about $10,595 per student, according to the report. North Carolina spends more than $4,500 below the national average of $15,114 per student. Education spending accounts for 2.3% of its total GDP, compared with 3.37% nationally. The General Assembly has proposed spending more than $10 billion on education this fiscal year and the next.

Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, co-chair of the Senate Education Committee, pointed out Tuesday that since Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2011, state-funded K-12 appropriations increased by 40%.

The new proposal has to be approved in both chambers of the General Assembly before Cooper reviews it. The governor said he would decide whether to sign the budget based on “what is best for the people of North Carolina.”

This article was originally posted on North Carolina budget proposal to be unveiled Monday