Cooper seeks big debt package, pay hikes, Medicaid expansion

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 8:21 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) -North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper unveiled his $27.3 billion proposed 2021-2023 budget Wednesday that he says reflects significant investments in schools and increased pay for teachers, action to strengthen health care access, and expanded economic opportunities and infrastructure investments.

The budget also calls for a $4.7 billion bond referendum to help fund many projects.

The Governor’s budget would provide K-12 teacher raises of 10% on average over the biennium and ensure that all non-certified school personnel receive a minimum of $15 an hour, on par with other state employees. The budget also invests more than $78 million in early education and child development so that more children can attend Pre-K, receive high-quality care, and access early intervention services.

The budget recommends cash capital investments totaling over $1.1 billion, including $675 million for UNC System projects, $360 for state agency projects, and $100 million toward energy efficiency improvements.

The governor recommends $45.4 million in economic investments, including support for One NC Small Business Fund and Carolina Small Business Fund.

Gov. Cooper says his budget “Would provide access to health care for more than 600,000 working North Carolinians, keeps rural hospitals open and strong, reduce the number of uninsured veterans, help fight the opioid epidemic, and inject over $5 billion in direct investment into the state by expanding Medicaid.

The budget calls for over $100 million to expand access to clean energy technologies, invest in clean energy economic development and build the clean energy workforce pipeline to catalyze North Carolina’s economy. The budget invests $10 million for clean energy economic development and $4.5 million in clean energy grants for homegrown start-ups and small businesses.

Governor Cooper recommends over $300 million in spending on environmental stewardship, increasing access to parks, and enhancing the state’s resiliency to future floods. The budget also recommends nearly $8 million for emerging compounds mitigation.

State House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) released a statement Wednesday responding to the release of Governor Roy Cooper’s budget proposal.

Moore says, “While there are a number of shared priorities funded in the Governor’s budget proposal, North Carolina lawmakers will remain vigilant in our responsible financial management of the state and avoid irresponsible decisions that have harmed taxpayers in the past. The General Assembly will maintain budget strategies that made our state attractive to so many newcomers with a powerful economy and state government that serves citizens effectively. I look forward to reaching consensus on a state budget that works for all North Carolinians to avoid further vetoes by the Governor of valuable funds that taxpayers earned and communities deserve.”

Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson), one of the Senate’s budget writers, said, “We have concerns about the very high spending growth and billions in borrowing in Gov. Cooper’s proposed budget. We don’t want to return to an era of rollercoaster-style budgets with huge spikes in the boom years followed by huge cuts in the lean years. Thanks to a decade of predictable, responsible budgeting, North Carolina weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and recession without cutting state services or freezing teacher pay. Gov. Cooper also wants to eliminate the Opportunity Scholarship program. His plan would harm working parents who desperately want their children to have an education that best prepares them for success. The program is enormously popular, especially among lower-income and non-white communities. For all the left’s talk about ‘equity,’ taking money away from low-income children so a private education is only available to the elite seems hypocritical. We look forward to working together to achieve an enacted budget.”

You can read the governor’s entire budget by clicking on the link below.

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