N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper — as expected — vetoed three minibudget bills Friday, two of which he considers as providing inadequate pay raises for public-school teachers and other state educators.
Cooper, a Democrat, has recommended a pay raise of between 8.5% and 9.1% for teachers over the two-year state budget period.
Republican-sponsored Senate Bill 354, which both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly approved on Oct. 31, contains a 3.9% pay raise and a 4.4% raise in supplement pay, the latter only effective if the GOP-controlled Senate is successful in overriding Cooper’s veto of the state budget legislation, House Bill 966.
The pay raises in SB354 would be 2% in 2019-20 and 1.9% in 2020-21. The 2019-20 raise would be made retroactive to July 1.
Cooper also vetoed SB578, which would reduce the state’s corporate franchise tax rate and includes language extending the state’s film-grant program. Cooper has called the GOP-sponsored franchise tax-rate cut “irresponsible.”
Another minibudget bill that Cooper vetoed is HB398, the information-technology budget, which contains $10 million in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 state budgets dedicated to a cybersecurity-development initiative at private Montreat College in Black Mountain.
That brings Cooper’s veto count to 14 for the 2019 session.
At full attendance, Republicans need at least one Senate Democrat and at least seven House Democrats to support a vote to override a Cooper veto.
Cooper said during a news conference in which he was accompanied by public-school teachers that Republican legislative leaders need “to negotiate on a real pay raise for all educators on the state payroll.”
A statement from Cooper’s office said the vetoed bills “are not good enough for the people who work hard to prepare students for a bright future, as they are far less than the raises approved for other state employees.”
The N.C. Association of Educators responded to the pay-supplemental offer on Oct. 30 by calling it “wildly insulting to educators of every level.”
Mark Jewell, the association’s president, said that “even with these proposed increases, education support professionals would still be getting less than other state employees have already received, and our retirees are ignored entirely.”
Citing an Oct. 18 letter he sent to GOP legislative leaders, Cooper said that “I will negotiate the pay raises of teachers and other educators separate and apart from Medicaid expansion.”
Cooper has cited the lack of Medicaid-expansion legislation that could affect 450,000 to 650,000 North Carolinians as a primary reason for vetoing the GOP-drafted state budget compromise.
“I urge all legislators from both parties to help us come together and support our teachers,” Cooper said Friday.
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and other Republican legislative leaders have presented their offers of 3.9% and 4.9% pay raises — the latter made on Thursday — as all-or-nothing propositions for public-school teachers.
“Teachers are told to be good, loyal Democrats and their union and their governor will take care of them,” Berger said in a statement.
“But they need to ask themselves: ‘What has Roy Cooper ever done for me?’
“He’s vetoed every single teacher pay raise that’s come across his desk, and he chose today to give teachers nothing for the next two years.”
Berger claims Cooper “uses teachers as pawns, blocking their pay increases then trying to convince them it’s all the Republicans’ fault. At some point, they’ll see his cynical ploy for what it really is.”
State Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, said Cooper has “disappointed a lot of people today in vetoing these bills,” in particularly those providing salary increases.
“The governor has, once again, denied teachers the pay raise they deserve,” Krawiec said.
Cooper spokeswoman Dory MacMillan responded to the GOP legislators’ criticism by saying “every Republican budget since 2011 has shortchanged North Carolina teachers.”
“Gov. Cooper will always stand up for teachers, and teachers stand with him because they can see through the smoke and mirrors in the legislation vetoed today,” MacMillan said.
Cooper made separate comments about the two pay-raise bills:
- HB231: “The General Assembly shortchanges our universities and community colleges and their employees, as well as state retirees, despite a robust economy and decent raises for other state employees.”
SB354: “The General
- Assembly continues to shortchange teachers and noncertified school personnel, like cafeteria workers, bus drivers and teacher assistants, despite a robust economy and decent raises for other state employees. Educators deserve more if our schools are to remain competitive with other states and keep good teachers.”
Cooper had until Monday to decide whether to sign SB354, veto it, or let it become law without his signature, which he has done with two bills this session.
“It’s no surprise that Gov. Cooper vetoed bills addressing disputed pay raises,” said Mitch Kokai, a senior policy analyst with the John Locke Foundation, a conservative-leaning research group based in Raleigh. “It would have been hard for him to sign these measures after spending months criticizing Republicans for not meeting his demands. Signing the measures would have amounted to a clear admission of political defeat.”
Kokai said that “it remains to be seen who will benefit and lose from this latest development.”
“The governor and his team will blame Republicans for not accepting his proposals. GOP legislative leaders will respond — with truth on their side — that Democrats are the only ones who have voted this year against pay raises and increased funding for items both sides have labeled as priorities,” Kokai said.
On Thursday, a statement from Berger’s office contained a proposal that would up the teacher raise to 4.9% for all teachers, as well as a $1,000 bonus. The chairs of the Senate Appropriations Committee said the proposal was made earlier this week to Democratic Senate leaders Dan Blue and Darren Jackson, both of Wake County.
Berger’s office has not responded to a request to disclose the proposal.
According to John Dinan, a political-science professor at Wake Forest University and a national expert on state legislatures, splitting the difference between Republican and Democratic positions on teacher pay “has always been the obvious way to negotiate an end to the monthslong budget standoff,”
“The governor may have to go just a bit further than the helpful statement he has provided with this veto,” ,” Dinan said, “by saying explicitly that he is prepared to put off the Medicaid-expansion debate for another time and is willing to sign a budget or allow teacher pay increases to be approved even if Medicaid expansion is not approved.”
If Cooper is willing to take that step, “I don’t see a reason why there couldn’t be a compromise on the level of the teacher pay increase.:”
“It’s true that there is a fair amount of daylight between the governor’s ideal pay raise and what legislative leaders have proposed; but this does not seem an insurmountable gap, as long as there is a good amount of movement from both sides.”
Kokai said the latest adjournment resolution allowing for a Nov. 13 session gives GOP legislative leaders “some wiggle room” to tackle legislation other than the court-ordered redrawing of congressional districts because of bias. The resolution does not allow for consideration of vetoed bills until the next legislative session, scheduled to begin Jan. 14.
“I doubt we’ll see votes on any additional veto overrides unless Republicans can convince Democrats to break with Gov. Cooper,” Kokai said.
“The budget bill remains the highest-priority item. The minibudgets addressing pay raises for teachers and others would be tied to the budget discussion.
“Beyond that, other vetoed measures would carry higher priorities for different legislators based on subject matter.”
House Republican leaders waited 76 days to hold veto-override votes of HB966 and HB555 in a controversial manner Sept. 11. Most Democratic members were not on the floor because they said they had been told by Republican House leadership that no votes would be taken during the first session that day.
HB555 contains $218 million in startup funding for the Medicaid managed-care transition currently slated to begin Feb. 1.
By comparison, the HB966 and HB555 override votes were on the Senate floor agenda only four days before the Oct. 31 adjournment.
Berger released a statement Oct. 31 saying that through the minibudget process, the legislature has “passed funding that totals 98.5% of the original $24 billion (budget) it passed in June.”
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