NC budget deal receives final legislative OK

June 21, 2012 3:53:46 PM PDT
The North Carolina Legislature has agreed to a state government spending plan for next year that's now heading to Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue's desk.

The Republican-led House and Senate voted separately Thursday in favor of a compromise $20 billion budget for the year starting July 1.

"The agreement continues our conservative approach to budgeting while restoring more than $250 million for public education, cutting and capping the gas tax, giving teachers and state employees a pay raise, and fixing Medicaid problems we inherited," said House Speaker Thom Tillis in a statement.

Perdue will have 10 days to decide whether to veto the measure or let it become law. She vetoed a two-year budget last year, but the veto was overridden.

While Republican lawmakers said the plan would give more money to public schools, most of the required public school reductions from the past three years remain in place. Democrats said public education is taking another step backward in the bill.

State employees and teachers are getting pay raises for the first time since 2008.

Governor, candidates react

Meanwhile, both candidates for governor spoke out on the budget Thursday. Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Walter Dalton were at an education event in Raleigh.

Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton criticized the spending plan that now heads to his boss, Gov. Bev Perdue.

"I'm not a fan of this budget," said Dalton. "I would be inclined to veto it."

Dalton said the budget still has deep cuts to education, and ignores the state's rural community while helping the rich.

"I did not think it was right to take $141 million and give our wealthiest North Carolinians and additional tax break of $3,500 that they did not ask for," said Dalton.

McCrory has a different take.

"I would support the budget," said McCrory.

MCrory said, if he was elected as governor, he'd focus on reforming education and rein in state spending.

"Right now, it seems the whole focus is on how much we spend as opposed to what are the results," said McCrory.

Perdue was supposed to attend Thursday's event. However, she sent a representative instead and released a statement: "My top priority is increasing our investment in education so that we can prepare our children to compete in the 21st century economy. The budget passed today does not go far enough in restoring funding for public schools in North Carolina. I will continue to review the proposal, but it is my sincere hope that the General Assembly will find a way to do better in the days ahead."

NAACP Protest

A number of advocacy groups also rallied in front of the legislature Thursday.

A protest led by the NAACP ran down their top ten complaints about Republican policies.

Chief among their complaints were educational policy changes and the lack of spending on schools.

They were also upset about fracking, efforts to change voting laws and curtail early voting, and the lack of funding for eugenics compensation.

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