RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The tension is palpable as is the growing unease.
North Carolina lawmakers on Thursday again found themselves pitted in their corners as the budget battle reached Halloween and showed no signs of ending even before Thanksgiving.
"Republican leaders hold teachers hostage," Gov. Roy Cooper asserted in a tweet." Demand sweeping corporate tax breaks and their entire bad budget in exchange for paltry teacher pay raises that are less than other state employees. Like kidnappers wanting ALL ransom $$ and still not letting victims go."
Cooper, elected in 2016, hoped Democratic gains in 2018 would give him more leverage in negotiations with Republican majorities.
The Republican-led General Assembly this summer passed its version of the budget complete with raises for all state employees -- including teachers -- as well tax cuts, among many, many other provisions.
The GOP-backed plan was almost immediately vetoed by Cooper, who is pushing for higher wages and expanding Medicaid coverage.
Despite the power of his veto, negotiations have stalled for nearly four months and communication has all but ended between the sides.
"The reason the raises aren't happening and the reason the budget isn't passed, preventing all the money going around the state, is because the governor is holding us hostage," House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland County, said.
Lawmakers hoped to adjourn their long session on Thursday and GOP leaders pitched what they called a generous compromise: an extra $250 million toward raising teacher pay by 4.4 percent, along with boosting pay for other educators across the university and community college system. The extra cash, however, is contingent upon Democrats helping to override the governor's veto.
If Democrats didn't vote along with Republicans, the original 3.9 percent rate increase would take effect. The Republican game plan, thus, would goad Cooper into vetoing that and leaving teachers with no raise at all.
"I don't know how anyone can say that a quarter of a billion dollars in new money is not serious and is not investing," Speaker Moore added. "If you support education in North Carolina, you'll vote yes for this bill."
GOP pitches new teacher raises but governor doesn't play along