Gov. Cooper presents budget, says 'it's a shame' teachers have to rally in Raleigh

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) -- On Thursday Governor Roy Cooper unveiled his updated budget proposal, promising millions in new spending for education, public safety and raises for all state employees.

The proposal, titled "Common Ground Solutions," comes just days before the General Assembly is planned to return to Raleigh on May 16 for its short session - the same day as a planned teacher rally that's expected to draw at least 15,000 educators.

"My budget will show that we value and respect state employees," Cooper said a news conference at the Department of Administration. "This budget invests in the right priorities."

Overall, Cooper's budget totals $24.5 billion, including $112 million in new spending for teacher salary increases that range from five percent to 14 percent. The proposal also allocated $130 million towards improving school safety, $75 million towards new school and classroom construction, plus a stipend of $150 for every teacher to offset costs on school supplies, among other things.

"We need to get to at least the national average in teacher pay in the next four years - 37th in the Country is totally unacceptable," Cooper declared.

To account for the new spending, Cooper announced he'd like to see tax cuts only for those making less than $200,000.

The 133-page budget proposal covers much more than education; Cooper has also proposed spending increases for prison safety and security, expanding Medicaid and severe weather recovery efforts.

"This budget is for every-day North Carolinians," he said.

Republicans were swift in their criticism of the budget proposal, labeling Cooper's ideas "failed tax and spend policy." Earlier this week, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate President Phil Berger announced their own budget proposal of $23.917 billion - more than $500 million less than the governor's budget.

"Legislative Republicans, unlike Gov. Cooper, have learned from the failure of Democrats' liberal tax-and-spend economic schemes," Berger asserted. "Last year our members passed a responsible plan that promised a generous teacher pay raise and lower taxes for working families - and this year we'll work quickly and efficiently to build on those promises."

Berger also announced a $356.7 million surplus this year, and a projected revenue surplus of $276.5 million in 2018 to 2019.
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