North Carolina democrats laid out their legislative priorities for the upcoming short session, and a plan they hope will win them votes in this year's mid-term elections to break the republican veto-proof majority in the General Assembly.
Democrats need to win four additional House or six Senate seats to end the GOP super-majority. All 170 legislative seats are being contested in the general election.
The legislative session starting Wednesday is primarily about adjusting the biennial budget. Republican leaders have a $23.9 billion spending target, including scheduled cuts to the corporate tax rate, from 3 percent to 2.5 percent; and the rate for incomes above $200,000, from 5.499 percent to 5.25.
But Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake), minority leader in the statehouse, said more needs to be done.
"We need to raise teacher pay and principal pay to the national average, 37th just isn't good enough," Jackson told reporters at the Democratic Party headquarters Monday.
The agenda laid out by Jackson and other democratic lawmakers, who held simultaneous press conferences across the state, reflects the budget priorities in a proposal released by Gov. Roy Cooper last week.
Cooper's $24.5 billion proposal would raise teacher pay by an average of 8 percent and by no less than 5 percent. The current budget passed last year by the GOP-controlled General Assembly would raise teacher pay next fiscal year by an average 6 percent.
The governor's proposal would pay for the increase in part by freezing the income tax rate for top earners at 5.499 percent and keeping the corporate tax rate at 3 percent.
Jackson also said Democrats want to expand Medicaid.
"More than 600,000 working people fall into the healthcare coverage gap," Jackson said. "Expanding Medicaid would ease the burden on rural hospitals, create 40,000 new jobs, save lives, and connect people with quality mental healthcare."
Another top priority for North Carolina democrats is taking steps to improve public safety.
"Passing common-sense gun safety measures like strengthening background checks and banning bump stocks will save lives," asserted Jackson.
State Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) made it clear, in addition to mapping out a game plan for the upcoming legislative session, the unveiling of the democratic agenda was aimed at motivating voters and giving them a stark choice in November.
"One that will continue to give tax cuts to big corporations and millionaires or one that invests in working families and middle-class families so they can move up the economic ladder," Chaudhuri told reporters at Monday's press conference in Raleigh.
In a statement issued last week after the governor released his budget proposal, top legislative republicans derided the democrat's plan as "more of an unserious attempt to score political points in an election year than a responsible, sustainable budget."