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Lawmakers Clash As GOP-Controlled NC Senate Gives OK To Budget

photo of the North Carolina Senate
Government & Heritage Library, State Library of NC

A North Carolina government budget proposal heavy on capital projects, saving reserves and tax cuts ― and distributes over $5 billion in federal COVID-19 aid ― has received preliminary approval from the state Senate.

The GOP-controlled chamber voted 32-18 on Thursday for the two-year plan.

The $25.7 billion spending plan would provide modest raises to state employees, as well as further cut personal and corporate taxes. Republican Brent Jackson is a lead budget writer.

“You know it has been a unique challenge dealing with so many different pots of money this year,” Jackson said. “And as I jokingly said earlier today I’m embarrassed that we’re spending so much of good taxpayer money in this budget, but it is a good budget.”

Democrats disagree, contending that conservatives should appropriate more of the funds that are available.

State lawmakers clashed on the Senate floor Thursday in continued debate over the proposed budget.

Democrats argue that the Republican proposal misses a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address program and salary needs in K-12 schools and in health care. Republicans say the tax cuts return surpluses to taxpayers, benefitting low- and middle-income tax filers disproportionately.

The state has more than $10 billion in cash from federal relief programs and unspent funds due to a 2019 budget impasse.

Republicans propose a modest increase to state spending and small 1.5% raises for public educators. Democrat Michael Garrett of Guilford County urged his colleagues to do more.

“Old excuses for paltry pay increases are out the window this year,” Garrett said. “We have billions of dollars in unallocated state revenue, so don’t tell me, don’t tell our teachers, don’t tell our students that we can’t afford to invest in our kids’ future.”

Garrett’s proposed amendment to provide teachers 10% raises was blocked by Republicans.

Despite differences, the budget plan was approved by a wide margin on initial vote, with a final vote expected Friday.

After this proposal is approved, the House will pass a budget of its own next month, and only then will the chambers work to reconcile their differences.

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
Associated Press
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