Budget battle sharpens with veto threat

Posted July 10, 2014

— As House and Senate budget negotiators traded offers Thursday, the battle lines sharpened with a veto threat from Gov. Pat McCrory. 

Senate leaders' most recent compromise proposal, sent to the House Thursday morning, maintains a teacher pay raise of 11 percent, a number House leaders and McCrory have both said is unsustainable. The Senate offer came on the heels of an offer by the House earlier in the day that would raise teacher salaries by 6 percent. 

The Senate would pay for the raise with cuts to teacher assistant positions and Medicaid rolls, although its latest offer includes $170 million that House leaders could choose to use to shore up either of those areas. 

McCrory said in a statement he would veto that plan "or any plan that resembles it."

The governor said he would back the House's latest offer, which includes a teacher pay raise of 6 percent, up from 5 percent Wednesday. But, he said, that's as far as he'll go.  

"I know of no financial way we can go beyond the House proposal without eliminating thousands of teacher assistants, cutting Medicaid recipients and putting at risk future core state services," he said. 

McCrory called the House proposal "a long-term, sustainable and affordable plan in which I stand with our teachers, our students, our principals, our superintendents, business leaders, House Democrats and House Republicans." 

"The Senate is currently standing by themselves with no visible support outside of the Beltline of our state capital," he added.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger was unfazed by the threat. 

"I’m disappointed the governor would not support the most robust raise we could give our teachers," said Berger, R-Rockingham. "We continue to have that as our No. 1 priority, and what we intend to do is continue to push for the most robust teacher raise that we can put forward."  

Asked whether that's true even in light of the threatened veto, Berger said with a smile, "We intend to push for the most robust teacher raise that we can put forward."

He noted later that lawmakers have already overridden two McCrory vetoes.

"It would be more helpful for him to work with members of both chambers of the legislature since his unwillingness to listen to those who have an honest disagreement with him on spending priorities in favor of staging media stunts and budget gimmicks is a major reason the budget has not been finalized,” Berger said in a statement.

The House and Senate did not meet in public Thursday. House negotiators called a meeting Friday morning, but both Berger and Senate budget Chairman Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said they would not attend.

Brown said the House is to blame for the budget stalemate because it's unwilling to consider laying off teacher assistants or cutting Medicaid coverage for sick, disabled and elderly adults. 

"Over and over, we have tried to relay to the House that to compromise means to meet somewhere in the middle," Brown said. "We have thrown out different scenarios on how we could do that, and each time that we've done that, the House has come back and pretty much told us that 'We cannot do this. We cannot do this. We cannot do this,’ and made very few compromises."  

"We continue to be willing to discuss proposals," Berger said, "but as long as one side basically says 'This is off the table,' I don’t think we've got a whole lot that we can be talking about." 

The latest House proposal, sent to the Senate Thursday morning, pushes the proposed teacher pay increase to 6 percent without giving in on its other priorities, House Speaker Thom Tillis said. 

The money for the higher teacher salaries comes out of the Department of Health and Human Services budget, but it wasn't exactly clear what was being cut.

Tillis noted the shift isn't coming at the expense of teaching assistants or Medicaid funding.

"We will continue to move towards a budget compromise that fulfills the promises we made to teachers while maintaining classroom resources across the state," Tillis said in a statement.

The House did put forward one compromise Wednesday by revising its projections of state lottery revenue to bring it in line with the Senate's numbers.


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  • dirtydozen431 Jul 11, 2014

    10,000,000,000 on education.

  • Garnerwolf1 Jul 11, 2014

    NC's budget is roughly $21Billion. Approximately half is already spent on education; let's call it $10B. By comparison the lottery money is the proverbal drop in the bucket. And that is apparently still not enough. For whatever reasons. The gov is correct on this one. No way the state can pay for an 11% pay raise for teachers (state emp might get 1%) without a tax increase. Remember this is not one time money.

  • iopsyc Jul 11, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I think the big issue is trying to get people to agree on what those core items are. In today's political climate I don't think it's feasible. Heck, even in a more agreeable climate, there'd need to be some very serious compromises from both sides as ideologies run very different.

  • John Weston Jul 11, 2014
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    View quoted thread

    I was looking for an honest discussion, now, you are just being silly. I never said we should scrap entire agencies. Please tell me you don't believe there is no waste in state government. For that matter federal government...if more dollars stayed in NC we'd be better off to deal with local issues. Less waste equals more resources for the really important programs like education and teacher pay. We have spread ourselves too thin with big government, it is unsustainable. Can you not see that?

  • ncsense Jul 11, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I don't know where the "cost millions" comes from. If you do a comparison of what the cost of Wake County schools would be with and without year-round schools, I suspect that you would find a savings. Wake has had an exploding school population and year-round schools are a way to make more efficient use of existing school facilities and staff, slowing the need to build new schools. It's not just a question of how many weeks out of the year teachers (and assistants) work.

  • juliomercado Jul 11, 2014

    View quoted thread

    You probably should research before pontificating. The governor is protecting TEACHER ASSISTANTS in grades 2 and 3 AND seeking a real pay scale system. This is a stunt being pulled by Phil Berger et al to 'put the governor in his place.' Keep in mind the original version tied ALL raises to the NCAE not suing and winning over tenure. The Senate refuses to hear the public. Who do you think is the real problem? Finally, look at the schedule the Senate is putting forth. For those at 20 years its basically a 0% raise for the next ten years. NICE math there Senators!

  • Larry Lynch Jul 11, 2014
    user avatar

    how's about we {the people} DEMAND immediate 40% cuts to all political activites for the house and senate? at once, right now. no per diem, no cost of living, AIR CONDITIONING SET AT 78 DEGREES -- I mean all yall politicans ought not mind that seeing as how yall are fulla hot air to begin with.......

  • Larry Lynch Jul 11, 2014
    user avatar

    gov mc - you got caught red handed!!!! it is now clear you have little to no intention of supporting a fair raise for teachers an state employees. you totally reject the senates version and I get the impression it is a stretch to go along with 5%. ENJOY YOUR NEXT 18 MTHS I PREDICT with confidence they will be your last as gov nor.

  • dirtydozen431 Jul 10, 2014

    Why do NC college students have so much debt when lottery money is for scholarships.

  • dirtydozen431 Jul 10, 2014

    Lottery money could be used for teacher pay to retain teachers to reduce class size.