Source: Editorial Board
When North Carolina Republicans weren’t busy banning abortion, making guns easier to purchase, targeting transgender youth with unnecessary laws, and trying to give health care providers permission to discriminate, they somehow found time to come up with two awful state budgets.
Gov. Roy Cooper released his 2023-25 budget in mid-March and it’s quite impressive – 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 move 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.
State employees would also see some big benefits. Cooper’s budget makes a huge investment in state employees by increasing pay, improving benefits and providing flexibility to hire the most qualified people.
The budget would also help middle-class families by providing them with tax breaks while not raising any taxes on others.
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 Senate budget was similarly awful. It calls for tax cuts, a massive increase in funding for private school vouchers at the expense of public school funding, and lower raises for teachers and state employees than even compared to the House budget.
The bill includes 5% raises for state workers across the board over the two years of the budget and teachers would get an average pay increase of 4.5% over two years. First-year salaries for teachers would increase from $37,000 now to $41,000 in the second year of the budget.
The Senate budget would also cut the personal income tax from 4.75% today to 3.99% in 2025 and continue the NCGOP’s tax cuts from 2021 which will drop the corporate tax rate to zero by 2030.
Cooper said the proposal is a “historic disaster for public education” because “It fails to fund basic needs and will force school leaders to cut everything from bus routes to courses.”
Cooper tweeted “[T]he Senate budget slaps veteran teachers with 15+ years in the classroom in the face with only a $250 raise spread over 2 years. But it rewards statewide politicians with big raises of more than 15-20%. That’s insulting, and it’s wrong.”
Cooper finished his statement by saying, “the Republican Senate will hurt children” with their bill.
“The Republican Senate budget will destroy public education while prioritizing tax cuts to enrich corporations and the wealthiest North Carolinians. By starving early childhood education, pre-K, Smart Start and public schools, the Republican Senate will hurt children.”
Republicans in the House and Senate will come together in the coming weeks to craft a conference budget to be voted on in both chambers. There’s still time to follow the example set in Cooper’s budget and adequately address the needs of all North Carolinians.