RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Just 24 hours after rolling out his spending plan, Gov. Roy Cooper hit the road to Raeford, visiting Scurlock Elementary School to showcase his biggest budget priority: education funding.
"The most important thing for Gov. Cooper's (budget plan) was to be sure that he emphasized that the education issue is still the Democrats' issue," said Mac McCorkle, Professor of the Practice at Duke Sanford School of Public Policy.
Cooper is pitching an 18% pay raise for teachers and principals, a 9.5% pay bump for support staffers such as bus drivers and $1.5 billion for childcare and early childhood education.
"I think it is unrealistic to some extent," said Mitch Kokai of the conservative think tank the John Locke Foundation.
Kokai agrees there will be significant pressure for a budget compromise between the governor and the Republican-controlled legislature, this year. Cooper has been lobbying for Medicaid expansion for years. There's finally a deal. But it won't be enacted until there's a budget in place.
"It definitely puts pressure on the governor to accept this budget," Kokai said. "Gov. Cooper would really dislike the prospect of having a Medicaid expansion deal in his hands, having signed a bill that would do it, and then come back and say, well, no, we can't make it happen."
McCorkle, who is a former Democratic campaign adviser, analyzed the prospect of a so-called poison pill in budget negotiations.
"The Republicans may go so far as to put an abortion ban in the budget. Then what does Gov. Cooper do in terms of signing the budget with Medicaid expansion? Does that go too far if the Republicans do that?" McCorkle said.
Kokai sees it differently.
"I'm not sure Republicans are going to throw in things like abortion or other policies that don't have much to do with the state budget," he said. "But I do think that they will think about potentially more tax cuts, more expansion of school choice."
With the potential for lots of twists and turns in the coming weeks, hearings began Thursday morning at the General Assembly for the governor's plan. Meanwhile, top Republicans in the House and Senate are signaling they plan to have their budget to Cooper by mid-June.