NC Gov. Roy Cooper approves $27.9B state budget proposal

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had until the end of Monday to decide what to do with a $27.9 billion spending plan state lawmakers sent him. Facing a possible veto override, Cooper decided to sign it.

Posted Updated

Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday decided to sign off on state lawmakers’ budget proposal hours before an approaching deadline.

The Democratic governor had until the end of the day on Monday to act on the $27.9 billion spending plan, which passed the Republican-controlled legislature with enough votes from Democrats to thwart a potential veto if the lawmakers reaffirmed their support for the bill.

"Today, I signed the state budget (HB 103) that includes critical investments in education, economic development, transportation and the state workforce," Cooper said in a statement.

The budget increases wages for teachers, state employees and retirees, while also setting aside $1 billion in a fund dedicated to addressing rising costs in the face of economic headwinds.

Notably absent from the legislation was Medicaid expansion, which has long been a top priority for Cooper and would have provided health insurance to about 600,000 low-income North Carolinians. The governor said he thinks a deal can be reached in the future.

"This budget does not include Medicaid Expansion, but the leadership in both the House and Senate now support it and both chambers have passed it," Cooper said. "Negotiations are occurring now and we are closer than ever to agreement on Medicaid Expansion, therefore a veto of this budget would be counterproductive."

Republican Senate leader Phil Berger and GOP House Speaker Tim Moore said they hope to continue working with Cooper to tackle the issue.

"The General Assembly passed the 2022 budget with strong bipartisan support, and we are pleased Governor Cooper signed this responsible spending plan into law," Berger and Moore said in a joint statement. "Moving forward, we are committed to working together to improve healthcare access and expand Medicaid, while providing the necessary safeguards to preserve the state’s fiscal strength. Active negotiations are occurring now toward that end."

The revised fiscal year budget represents a 7.2% increase from the prior budget, with substantial amounts going to new and existing infrastructure projects. The extra spending was intended to cover the surging inflation rate. The 8.6% rate for the 12-month period ending in May was the highest since 1981.
Earmarks include $883 million for water and wastewater initiatives, $300 million for a new education complex and governor’s office and improvements to other government buildings. The budget allocates an additional $120.8 million in capital grants to local governments and nonprofits.
The spending plan provides $32 million for school safety grants, an additional $15 million for school resource officers in elementary and middle schools, $26 million for officers in high schools and $5 million for historically black colleges and universities to address cybersecurity and bomb threats.
But many priorities weren't resolved during this year's legislative session, including medical marijuana legalization, online sports betting and Medicaid expansion.
The House and Senate passed separate bills addressing Medicaid expansion, but the measures stalled in their respective opposing chambers.
The Senate approved a more sweeping expansion bill, while the House voted to further study the issue and pledged to hold a vote in December. Last year’s budget already included a study period for lawmakers, causing frustration for Cooper and Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.

The budget also didn’t further reduce taxes, as some Republicans had hoped, nor did it provide gas tax rebates Democrats sought.

Critics of the spending plan, which include the State Employees Association of North Carolina and North Carolina Association of Educators, have argued that the spending plan doesn’t go far enough in providing immediate financial relief to families dealing with rising costs. A regular gallon of gas in North Carolina cost an average of $4.32 on Monday, up 48% from the $2.91 customers paid a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association.

Lawmakers’ proposed 3.5% pay raise for most state employees and 4.2% average pay increase for educators is well below the rate of inflation.

Meanwhile on Monday, Cooper vetoed a measure that would have bolstered collaboration in North Carolina between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement officials.

Immigration advocacy groups feared the measure would create further distrust between police and immigrants that results in fewer crimes being reported, while Republican supporters of the bill argued it would hold violent criminals accountable.

Senate Bill 101 would have required local sheriffs and jail administrators to find out the immigration status of some inmates and assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in keeping them detained before possible deportation.

State Sen. Chuck Edwards, a western North Carolina co-sponsor of the bill, said this year’s measure was more narrowly tailored than a similar 2019 bill. The proposal would have only applied to those charged with serious crimes, such as homicide, rape, kidnapping, human trafficking, assault, child abuse and violation of a domestic violence protective order.

Cooper announced he'd lift the state of emergency he issued in March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. He said in a statement that the directive is to be lifted on Aug. 15 because the budget includes changes requested by state health officials to ensure they had the flexibility needed to keep the public protected.

He also said he'd let a regulatory reform bill become law without his signature, despite a provision in the legislation that raised some concerns about consumer protections.

Under House Bill 911, lenders could get money from a borrower through a legal mechanism known as a confession of judgment, which is often found in a contract clause.

Buried in some contracts are provisions where borrowers agree to allow a creditor to obtain a judgment against them over an unpaid bill, often without advance notice or a hearing. Opponents argue the process is a function of predatory lending. While the House on July 1 amended a separate bill to strike down the provision, the confession of judgment language still went to Cooper because the Senate adjourned earlier in the day. Cooper said he expects the Senate to remove the provision.

"This bill contains necessary changes in several areas but will become law without my signature due to a provision involving confessions of judgement that could be unfair to consumers," Cooper said in a statement. "Weakening their due process rights in this way could also conflict with federal regulations that recognize confessions of judgement are harmful to consumers. Legislators have pledged to eliminate this provision and I expect them to be true to their word."


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