RALEIGH – That was quick. It’s remarkable how budget adjustments can be completed so quickly when legislative leaders cut the Democrats off at their knees by eliminating the amendment process. Lawmakers passed the modified budget bill Friday morning after several days of debate in myriad committees and chamber floors.
The conference report passed both chambers Friday largely along party lines, after a solid week of Democrats whining that they were shut out of the process. Had the amendment process been open, the bill would have still passed mostly along party lines, but instead of being wrapped up by June 1, it would not have likely reached the finished line for weeks. In the interim Democrats would have leveraged the amendment process to score political points via forced votes on items that never stood a chance of passing.
Under the budget, spending steps up significantly while addressing a lot of issues Democrats have focused their smear campaign on. All state employees will get at least a 2 percent raise, with some getting more. Retired state employees will also get a 1 percent cost-of-living increase to their pensions.
Correctional officers in prisons will get an approximately 4 percent raise, and Highway Patrol troopers will get an 8 percent raise.
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On the education front, the average teacher will get a 6.5 percent raise and principals will get a nearly 7 percent raise. The budget also added tens of millions of dollars for school safety and mental health measures.
“We’ve actually made a huge, consistent investment in education,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain). “A substantial raise for teachers, 6.5 percent. … Roughly a $3,100 average raise for principals. Making schools safer. … Our state employees are saying this is a great budget. It takes the people at the lowest pay tier and makes sure they get a substantial raise.”
Those numbers are not terribly far off from those in Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget recommendations, but alas he maintained his partisan approach to it all with his redundant class warfare rhetoric.
“We can do so much more to raise teacher pay, improve school safety and protect drinking water but legislative Republicans thought it was more important to protect their tax breaks for corporations and people making over $200,000 a year,” said the governor’s spokesman Ford Porter, after the final vote.
You’d think they would get tired of regurgitating the same lame lines over and over again, especially when most North Carolinians can see right through it. Especially when those tax cuts included in the budget will also reduce income tax rates for every taxpayer in the Old North State – including small business owners, which often pay at personal rates.
Not a single Democrat in the House voted for the budget, and Cooper has not indicated one way or another as to if he will sign it. His eventual decision, a political consideration at best, is largely irrelevant due to Republican super-majorities.
Last year he vetoed the budget, only to have it quickly overridden. Cooper may elect the veto to keep up the Democrats’ intransigent political stance going into 2018 elections.
Or he could simply refuse to sign the bill, leaving it to become law absent his signature after 10 days.
Either way, the General Assembly has finished off the short session budget adjustments in the shortest amount of time in recent memory, leaving lawmakers to pursue other political priorities.
Those priorities could be passing resolutions to offer voters a referendum on select constitutional amendments. Capping state income taxes and making way for voter identification requirements are rumored to be the most likely amendments.