Why some Senate Democrats voted for the budget

Posted June 21

— A mixture of raises and state funding boosts for local projects convinced a handful of Senate Democrats to back the Republican majority's budget Tuesday, despite Gov. Roy Cooper calling it "the most fiscally irresponsible budget I've ever seen."

"There are raises in there for teachers," Sen. Joel Ford, D-Mecklenburg, said Wednesday. "There's a COLA [pension cost-of-living adjustment] in there – a real COLA – and there's a bonus for state employees."

Ford, a candidate for mayor in Charlotte, also got funding for an out-of-poverty program called Renaissance West. He said he wasn't going to ignore everything good about this budget "for political showmanship."

Four of 15 Senate Democrats voted for the budget Tuesday. Like Ford, two others said the budget was good for their constituents. The third, Sen. Don Davis, D-Pitt, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

"I certainly support the governor's concerns that the budget doesn't show enough vision," Sen. Ben Clark, D-Hoke, said. "But often times, we don't get everything we want."

Clark ticked off millions that will impact his district in the budget. There's funding for a fitness center at Fayetteville State University, funding for a Civil War museum in Cumberland County, money for an expansion at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and money for upgrades at the Fayetteville Regional Airport.

"It does so much for folks in my district," Clark said.

Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Northampton, said the biggest issue for her was the reversal of GOP cuts to education programs in her district. Senate leadership pushed those cuts through during an overnight session on the budget in May after Smith-Ingram and other Democrats rolled out a series of doomed floor amendments in the post-midnight session.

"For me, this was a principle over partisanship vote," Smith-Ingram said. "Education is so critical. ... My constituents are better off receiving the provisions in the budget."


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