Democrats, Governor Cooper, and more respond to NC House Republican state budget plan

RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said Tuesday he believed the North Carolina budget proposal unveiled this week by Republicans in the House of Representatives was an improvement over the version passed by the Senate, but added “that doesn’t make it good.”

House Republicans have called for tax cuts, higher wages for state employees and various policy changes, which some Democrats say they will oppose.

“While there are positives, among the many changes we need include expanding Medicaid, much greater investment in quality education and child care, stopping corporate tax breaks and the elimination of devious and damaging policy changes to public education, women’s health choices, environmental safeguards, and emergency authority to fight the pandemic, ”Cooper said in a statement.

House lawmakers spent several hours in committee Tuesday reviewing details of the budget and debating amendments. Republican leaders aim to pass a budget by Thursday.

At this point, they would have to reconcile the differences with the Republican-controlled Senate and with Governor Cooper.

Beyond the financial impacts of the budget, including the amount to be paid for civil servants, it proposes changes that have an impact on the way teachers do their jobs and on the power of the governor to act in case emergency.

Representative Susan Fisher (D-Buncombe) expressed concerns on Tuesday about some of the changes in education policy, including a requirement that schools post online for people to view. This includes lesson plans.

School boards should also set up a “media advisory committee” to hear complaints from those who wish to challenge these documents as “unfit.”

It comes amid the debate over critical race theory and as Republicans have tried to pass bills limiting how it is taught in classrooms.

“I think this is a dangerous trail to follow,” Fisher said. “It makes parents and everyone else in the neighborhood decide to show up, even though they don’t have kids in schools, and say we don’t agree with the program you’re teaching. “

Fisher said such provisions should not be in the state budget, but in other laws. The House passed a bill earlier this year calling for these changes, but the Senate did not act on it.

Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston) said: “Simply put, this is what we have been doing for many years in the past.”

“(Parents) want to have the authority, which they should as a parent, to know what their child is being taught. So it just gives access to those materials, ”he said.

The House budget plan also includes several changes educators wanted, including salary increases, reinstating higher pay for teachers with master’s degrees, and eliminating the requirement for teachers to pay. $ 50 to hire a replacement when they take a personal day.

“The budget proposal released by the House (Monday) represents a cautious step forward for North Carolina public school students after years of decline. Investments in school counselors, school construction and pay equity for seasoned educators all demonstrate a good faith commitment to the well-being of our educators, students and their families, ”said Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

Teachers would get increases of 5.5% on average over two years under the House plan, while most state employees would get 5%.

“The budget of the House – it is better than what the Senate proposed. However, some improvements still need to be made, ”said Resha Forston, a lobbyist for the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

While retirees would get an extra 2 percent each year, Forston said they would have to get a permanent cost-of-living adjustment.

The budget would also put limits on Governor Cooper’s emergency powers, Atty’s ability. General Josh Stein (R) to initiate certain prosecutions and for the National Council of Elections to be able to resolve the prosecutions. Republicans have been trying to pass legislation on this since the board settled a case last year affecting the rules of the 2020 election.

“We are responding to voters we hear on both sides of this question about the strength of those powers. Should a man be in control? Said Representative Torbett.

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