Cooper slams NC budget deal, calls it ‘most fiscally irresponsible’ he’s ever seen

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — Senate lawmakers took their first vote on the state budget Tuesday night, passing it 38-11.

RELATED: NC budget agreement raises salaries, delays tax cuts

The Senate was expected late Tuesday to hold the first of two votes on the final two-year spending plan. The House could follow Wednesday.

The agreement reached by House and Senate GOP negotiators includes pay raises for teachers and state employees and a retiree pension increase. There’s also more money for at-risk 4-year-olds to attend preschool.

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But some say that raise is not nearly enough.

Lauren Piner, a high school world history teacher in Pitt County, also works a second job.

“That’s really the only way to exist,” she said.

The budget would give teachers an average 3.3 percent raise this year and an average 9.6 percent raise over the next two years.

“It’s not going to be enough to recruit the best and the brightest into our classrooms,” said Piner.

Cooper said, while the total spending figure, about $23 billion, is more than lawmakers had planned, they’re spending less than in previous proposals on teachers.

“We believe we are making the appropriate things the highest priority,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, (R-Wake) House Appropriations Senior Chairman. “But we’re not spending so much money that in the future we are overextending, which happened before the great recession.”

Republican budget writers said teacher pay and education funding were top priorities.

“What we are concerned about, in the Senate and in the House, is making sure that we are responsible for our spending, for setting the right priorities in education, in public safety, in infrastructure, in Health and Human Services,” said Dollar.

But the measure doesn’t spend as much as Cooper wanted, and he’s unhappy with tax cuts again benefiting the wealthy and corporations. And during a time of surpluses, Republicans directs that spending in Cooper’s office be reduced by 10 percent.

RELATED: Click here to view the budget plan

Cooper on Tuesday slammed the bill at a news conference, saying that this budget is “worse” than the previous one and it’s the “most fiscally irresponsible” budget he’s ever seen.

“I think it may be the most fiscally irresponsible budget I’ve ever seen,” said Cooper.

Cooper could be poised to veto it unless GOP lawmakers turn against the two-year spending plan that their colleagues wrote.

The measure will get its first votes later in the day. He says the final plan failed to do better on public school teacher pay even though House and Senate lawmakers agreed to spend $130 million more than their competing plans called for after final negotiations.

Cooper also criticized tax cuts in the final proposal because they benefited highest wage-earners and corporations. Those tax changes wouldn’t take effect until 2019 but also benefit low- and middle-income tax filers.

When asked if he would veto the final budget, he first urged Republicans to vote against it but said “this budget is wrong for North Carolina.”

The Senate is scheduled to take another vote on the budget on Wednesday. Then, the House will vote on the budget.

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