Source: Editorial Board
Gov. Roy Cooper released his 2023-25 budget and it calls for bold investments in teachers, students, working families and infrastructure.
Cooper’s budget has six points of focus:
- Raise teacher and state employee pay
- Expand Medicaid
- Tax breaks for middle-class families
- Addressing the mental health crisis
- Funding public schools for a sound, basic education
- Infrastructure investments
The governor’s budget proposal calls for an average teacher pay raise of 18%, which would catapult North Carolina’s teacher pay to first in the Southeast. The budget also includes funding for school bus drivers, counselors and other school staff.
Another highlight of the budget is that it will provide every student the opportunity to get a sound, basic education by funding the Leandro Plan. The state Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled over the past 29 years that the state has a constitutional duty to fund the plan, but Republicans are against it.
Cooper’s budget also calls for a $1 billion plan to support mental health and substance use treatments. If Medicaid is expanded by the end of this fiscal year, North Carolina will be eligible to receive an additional $1.75 billion incentive bonus from the federal government that will help support the state’s healthcare system and economy.
The governor also calls for investments in job training and funding for community colleges, universities, and programs for training, credentialing and apprenticeships. Addressing the current strain on child care providers, the budget will continue to fund child care stabilization grants that help to employ top-quality teachers and staff at these facilities. Cooper is also proposing additional funding for mega-site preparation to attract major companies and new industries to open sites in North Carolina.
Those employed by the state would also see some big benefits if the governor’s budget is adopted. The budget makes a huge investment in state employees by increasing pay, improving benefits and providing flexibility to hire the most qualified people.
The budget will also help middle-class families by providing them with tax breaks while not raising any taxes on others.
Legislative Republicans have already complained about the governor’s budget, though it’s hard to find a genuine reason why, other than perhaps because Cooper isn’t calling for tax breaks for the rich and large corporations.
Cooper’s budget addresses what should be bipartisan priorities – funding for schools that will provide students with a good education and teachers with higher pay, infrastructure, healthcare, preparations for attracting new businesses and industries, higher pay for state employees, and funding for job training programs and higher learning, just to name a few.
The best part? The governor’s budget would do all of these things while maintaining the state’s reserves at almost $7 billion. The budget would increase spending on the state’s top priorities while keeping a significant amount of money in the state’s rainy day fund – it sounds like a win-win.