Budget season is well underway in North Carolina. Back in March, Gov. Roy Cooper released his proposed state budget, with the Republicans in the state House unveiling their own recommendations in the following month.
In the governor’s budget, the goal of long-term investments is made clear through funding recommendations toward mental health, state employee compensation and child care, job training and economic development.
Cooper’s 2023-2025 budget is titled, “First in Opportunity,” which builds on the state’s success and “once-in-a-generation” opportunity by investing in families, businesses, and communities across North Carolina, according to a press release.
Cooper’s budget also includes:
- An average 18% teacher raise over the biennium.
- Setting minimum starting teacher salaries at $46,000 in addition to local supplements.
- Investments toward The Leandro Comprehensive Plan and child care
- Investments towards the Improve Health Outcomes for People Everywhere or “IHOPE” fund to address mental health and substance abuse crises.
- Bolstering public safety and investing in school safety grants, support for local law enforcement, and community-based violence prevention programs.
- Implementing tax breaks for middle-class families and maintaining reduced tax rates for the wealthy and corporations.
“We are at a historic moment with unprecedented opportunity to make ‘once-in-a-generation’ investments in our future,” stated Cooper in a press release. “North Carolina has built on our success to strengthen our place as first in opportunity, and we will continue that growth only by making sound investments in our families, workforce, schools and communities. Let’s take advantage of our unlimited potential to make sure every North Carolinian can thrive.”
In contrast, House Republicans’ budget proposal offers a 5.5% average raise for teachers, compared to Cooper’s average of 10% in 2023 and 6% in 2024. In addition, state Republicans’ budget fails to meet Leandro funding numbers, offers less for child care investments, and features no bonuses for teachers and state workers.
The House Republican budget also prioritizes blocking schools, local governments, and colleges from requiring students and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The proposal also included two of the governor’s executive orders on the environment; stopping the requirement of new trucks to be electric and blocking the state from joining a regional initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to Spectrum News.
“The chasm between the governor’s higher recommendations and the legislative majority’s lower targets point again to fundamental differences in priorities and values,” wrote Ferrel Guillory, a professor of the practice emeritus at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, in a piece surrounding the different state budgets. “Doesn’t North Carolina, indeed, have the economic and civic strength to propel its schools, colleges, and universities to advance the lifetime prospects of its rising generation?”
In the coming days, Senate leaders are expected to present their version of the state budget. And once it moves through the legislative process, House and Senate leaders will have closed-door budget negotiations. Once the two chambers reach a compromise, a vote will be taken to send the budget to the governor’s desk.
Read more at WUNC.