Gov. Cooper budget would spend $1.1 billion more

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017
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Governor Roy Cooper

DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Democrat Roy Cooper unveiled his first state budget as North Carolina's governor Wednesday, a proposal that would increase state government spending by $1.1 billion next year.

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The proposed budget would give teachers and state employee raises, reduce waiting lists for pre-kindergarten programs, and expand Medicaid.

Cooper released his two-year plan Wednesday morning at Durham Technical Community College. It would increase spending by more than 5 percent compared to the current budget on the books and approved by Republican lawmakers.

As expected, the new governor wants average teacher raises of 5 percent annually. Most state employees next year would get raises equal to 2 percent or $800, whichever is greater.

The governor's office had said Cooper's proposal would aim toward making North Carolina a leader in key education measurements by 2025. Those include pre-kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation rates and the percentage of adults with higher education degrees.

The governor wants to reinstate a tax credit for child and dependent care expenses that GOP legislators eliminated. And Cooper wants to revive a tax credit for film and TV productions.

The budget goes to the General Assembly, which is securely in Republican hands. GOP leaders are under no obligation to approve it but may have similar viewpoints on some topics. Cooper announced last week a teacher pay plan in his budget that would put average salaries close to what Senate Leader Phil Berger wants.

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Sen. Berger later responded Wednesday to Cooper's previewed budget.

"If the news reports are true, Gov. Cooper is clearly growing nostalgic for the Easley-Perdue days of runaway spending - and his reckless $1 billion spending spree would surely return us to the days of high taxes and multi-billion dollar deficits," he said in a statement. "We believe a more prudent approach is investing generously in public education and other priorities while still saving for a rainy day and returning hard-earned tax dollars to our taxpayers. The governor's proposal is a step backward from this successful approach that has led to a booming North Carolina economy and helped generate close to 500,000 new jobs."

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