State lawmakers introduce budget without Cooper's demands

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger introduced a joint budget with other lawmakers at the state legislature on Tuesday afternoon.

"This budget makes sense. It's balanced," Moore told reporters. "This is a great budget that I'm hopeful when Governor Cooper receives it from us, he can reconsider his position and will sign this budget."

The $24 billion budget offers $14.2 billion in public education. From that amount, state employees and teachers are being offered pay raises. However, they are lower than what Gov. Roy Cooper suggested when he introduced his budget in March.

"(Public education funding) is the highest in the state's history," Berger noted. "This is an investment that is unparalleled. I could think of nothing more important to fund than our public schools."

North Carolina Association of Educators president Mark Jewell disagreed. But Moore said the proposal is fair-minded.

"This is a budget that is not about partisan politics. And I hope it becomes law," Moore said.

Medicaid expansion is another top priority for Cooper - an area where state lawmakers did not appear to offer much concession.

"I'm opposed to Medicaid expansion," said Forsyth County Republican Donny Lambeth. "I do not like the traditional expansion."

Tuesday's proposed budget does not offer the expansion the governor is looking for. Following the announcement, Lambeth told ABC11 that the budget discussion will likely head into late July.

With Medicaid and teacher pay at the top of Cooper's priorities for the FY19-20 budget, Lambeth said it's a fair assessment that state lawmakers will be able to give the governor one of his priorities, but not both.

"From what we've seen, this is a bad budget that has the wrong priorities," said Ford Porter, spokesperson for Gov. Cooper. "It spends more on corporate tax breaks instead of significantly higher teacher pay. It includes a slush fund that promises projects that may never be built rather than using a school bond at today's historically low interest rates to help build new schools responsibly. And it fails to do anything to close the coverage gap that would make health care more accessible for working people. North Carolina families deserve a better budget."
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