@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

State budget now law after House overrides veto

Posted June 12, 2018 11:04 a.m. EDT
Updated June 12, 2018 2:03 p.m. EDT

— The House on Tuesday completed the override of Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of the $23.9 billion state budget.

With the 73-44 vote, the budget becomes law and will take effect July 1.

Cooper last week touted his $24.5 billion budget proposal as a better alternative to the needs of the state by spending more on schools, water quality and health care, among other items.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, the chief budget writer in the House, criticized Cooper's spending plan as irresponsible, comparing it to ads for insurer Geico in which people praise getting more.

The governor's proposal requires a $400 million tax increase now and would lead to a $469 million shortfall within two years, necessitating even higher taxes or budget cuts, Dollar said.

"You can make the responsible choice," he said in urging the veto override.

House Minority Leader Darren Jackson dismissed Dollar's claim of a budget deficit under Cooper's proposal, arguing that the General Assembly's Fiscal Research Division rejiggered economic assumptions to make the numbers look worse. The governor's plan would be better for teachers and state employees, said Jackson, D-Wake.

He also blasted the process Republican legislative leaders used to draft the budget behind closed doors and then block any amendments to it.

"We can do much better. We should do much better," he said.

Dollar countered that Cooper's administration refused to provide budget writers with information on state agency needs, which he called "most unusual."

Rep. Duane Hall, D-Wake, split with his Democratic colleagues and supported the override because of the raises for state employees included in the budget. The plan raises the minimum wage for state workers to $15 an hour, or $31,200 a year, and includes 2 percent raises for most public employees, with higher raises for corrections officers, state troopers and teachers.

"I'd like to agree with my governor that this budget doesn't do enough for teachers," Hall said, going on to criticize the budget process.

"Ultimately, I care more about the outcome than the process," he concluded. "My vote today is a symbolic one in favor of state employees."

Meanwhile, Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, the only Republican to vote against the budget last month precisely because he objected to the process, voted for the override. He maintained that Cooper vetoed the budget merely to score political points with teachers and "shadowy leftist groups."

"I'm not going to be part of helping fall campaign talking points," Blust said.

Cooper spokesman Ford Porter warned Republicans that voters would remember their actions in the November elections.

"The broken Republican legislature has protected special interests and income tax breaks for corporations and families making over $200,000 a year instead of investing in education and the middle class. Legislative leaders rammed this budget through with no public input or the opportunity for amendment, and North Carolina families should hold their representatives accountable," Porter said in a statement.

Cooper had proposed freezing income tax cuts slated to take effect next year for businesses and wealthy individuals to help pay for larger teacher raises.