Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday chided lawmakers for their proposed budgets, saying they were socking too much away in reserve or giving too much to businesses or wealthy individuals through tax breaks and not investing enough in education and in rural areas to move North Carolina forward.
Negotiators from the House and the Senate are meeting this week to hammer out a compromise $22.9 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Cooper said his administration plans to be part of those discussions, and he urged the public to put pressure on lawmakers to adopt a final budget that is more progressive than either of the legislature's current proposals.
"The House and Senate budgets shortchange our state at a time when we don't have to," Cooper said during a news conference. "We need a budget that has vision. We need a budget that is planning for years down the road."
Both the House and the Senate spend about $600 million less than Cooper has proposed. Legislative leaders have called the proposals fiscally responsible plans that meet the state's needs while continuing to save in order to respond to future natural disasters or economic downturns.
While lawmakers said they wanted to limit spending growth to 2.5 percent to account for North Carolina's population growth as well as inflation, Charlie Perusse, Cooper's budget director, said a more accurate figure for that is 3.1 percent.
Cooper called the resulting spending cap an "artificial constraint" created by legislative leaders that prevents any type of investment in teacher salaries, workforce development or rural infrastructure.
"You can invest wisely and save prudently at the same time," he said. "You don't have to squirrel it all away or give it to those who already have."
The governor blasted the Senate's so-called "Billion Dollar Middle-Class Tax Cut" proposal, which cuts personal and corporate income tax rates and makes other changes to the state tax code that he said would benefit the wealthy more than middle-class families.
"The Senate tax packet blows a hole in the budget," he said. "It's going to prevent us from being No. 1 in the Southeast in teacher pay in three years at to the national average in five because there won't be a way to fund it."
Shelly Carver, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, said Cooper has shown no signs of compromising with lawmakers on budget priorities.
"Even as Gov. Cooper claims he wants to work in good faith on budget negotiations, he is again stubbornly refusing to consider any ideas outside of his own backward-looking proposal that delivers zero tax cuts to North Carolina families and would return us to the days of out-of-control spending, budget shortfalls and teacher furloughs," Carver said in a statement, adding that the Senate's budget priorities have produced surpluses in each of the last two years.