RALEIGH — A local lawmaker said he voted against a Republican budget that prioritized massive tax breaks for out-of-state corporations and people making more than $200,000 per year, while shortchanging teacher pay, school safety and state employees.
“When I vote on a budget, I vote to support teachers, students and hardworking families. This budget failed on all fronts,” said Scotland County’s state Rep. Garland Pierce.
The budget proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative Democrats would have given larger raises to teachers and school personnel, and would have provided more than double the investment in state employee salary and benefits than the Republican Special Interest Budget, Pierce said.
It also provided an additional $140 million in Hurricane Matthew recovery funds compared to just $60 million in the Republican budget.
The chief pivot on the competing plans is taxes. The Republicans’ proposal retains income-tax cuts already set to take effect next January — reducing the corporate rate from 3 percent to 2.5 percent and the individual rate from 5.499 percent to 5.25 percent.
“Republican leaders met in secret with lobbyists to craft a budget that uses our tax dollars to line the pockets of special interests and corporate shareholders while leaving our communities behind. That’s the wrong choice for families in Southeast North Carolina,” Pierce said.
The plan does contain $6 million for the School of Business at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
“We are grateful to the General Assembly for their continued strong support of UNC Pembroke,” said Robin Gary Cummings, UNCP chancellor. “Due to its promise of driving economic development across southeastern North Carolina, the UNCP School of Business has generated an outpouring of support from legislators, private donors, foundations, and corporations, in addition to voters throughout the state who overwhelmingly approved the 2016 Connect NC Bond. The $6 million appropriation in this year’s budget is a critical step in bringing this transformative project closer to reality.”
The budget would also provide:
— $300,000 for Richmond Community College to reduce disparity between short-term workforce training and curriculum programs in FY 2018-19
— $25,000 for the grant-in-aid to the Scotland County Economic Development Corporation for recruitment, marketing, job training, and the retention of industries in Scotland County.
-$10,000 for Scotland County tor purchase naloxone for first responders
The governor hasn’t said publicly what he’ll do, but it’s unlikely he’d support a measure that House and Senate Democrats voted nearly unanimously against after vociferous criticism during nine hours of combined floor debate this week.
Republicans have veto-proof majorities, and their votes on the budget earlier this week indicate they would be likely to override a Cooper veto just as they did in 2017.
House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County took the unusual step Friday of debating the budget bill from the floor, highlighting average pay raises of 6.5 percent for teachers and a $700 million year-over-year increase in overall public education funding.
“Today is an opportunity with this budget that we have before us to expand on the good work that’s been done,” Moore said. “We’ve actually made a huge, consistent investment in education.”
Moore also defended this year’s parliamentary process, in which House and Senate Republicans negotiated privately for weeks before a final deal was reached, then blocked anyone from offering amendments. Much of the floor debate questioned whether the process increased efficiency or damaged representative democracy.
“This whole process has bothered me,” Rep. Billy Richardson, a Cumberland County Democrat, told Republicans. “We’re frustrated. We genuinely want to work with you. We genuinely want to be a part of this process.”
Friday’s debate looked ahead to the November elections, when energized Democrats are hoping to end the Republicans’ veto-proof majorities and possibly take control of a chamber for the first time since 2010.
The Associated Press assisted with this report