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Live State Budget Updates: Cooper signs spending plan into law

Governor Roy Cooper Official Twitter

The state budget has arrived. Republican budget writers dropped the proposed spending plan and accompanying "money report" on Monday, Nov. 18. North Carolina is the last state in the country to pass a budget.

4:10 p.m. | Nov. 18, 2021

Democratic Governor Roy Cooper signed a state budget into law Thursday afternoon, hours after the North Carolina General Assembly gave its final approval to the two-year plan.

North Carolina is the final state in the nation to get a budget. The budget designates nearly $26 billion in spending this fiscal year, and $27 billion the next.

A series of bipartisan votes for the plan won wide favor after Cooper recently announced he would sign the measure into law. The House voted 101-to-10 in favor of the measure, the day after the Senate gave the chamber's final OK to the bill by a vote of 41-to-7. Each chamber also held similar, preliminary votes backing the plan earlier in the week.

The budget, which was unveiled Monday afternoon, provides 5% raises to nearly all state employees, reduces taxes, and saves billions in the rainy day fund.

— Associated Press and Cole del Charco, WUNC

2:30 p.m. | Nov. 18, 2021

Tucked in the new state budget, is an expansion of services for families of children with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. More than 28,000 families in the state qualify for state funding for in-home care like speech or behavioral therapies, but there was funding for fewer than half of those families.

The budget expands funding for another 1,000 slots. It won't clear out the backlog, but is still a significant investment. There's also money to increase salaries of caregivers, says Dave Richard, deputy health secretary for Medicaid.

"No matter how many slots we have out there, it's hard for people to find workers right now. There are multiple things you need to do in that area, but having increased wages will go a long way in being able to find more workers," said Richard.

While this isn't the full expansion of Medicaid sought by Democrats, it is one of several ways in which the health insurance program for families in need has been expanded.

— Jason deBruyn, WUNC

2 p.m. | Nov. 18, 2021

UNC System President Peter Hans praised the state budget proposal's funding for higher education at a meeting of the UNC Board of Governors Thursday.

"The state budget that's passing this week and will soon be on its way to the governor is a remarkable start on a new era, in which we will lift up our faculty and staff, broaden our educational reach, revamp our campus facilities and make education more affordable to more North Carolinians," said Hans.

Like all state employees, UNC System faculty and staff will receive 5% raises over two years and will be eligible for bonuses of up to $1,500. The budget fully funds enrollment growth at public universities. It also dedicates $2 billion for building repairs and renovations across the UNC system. Fayetteville State University would become the fourth university to join the NC Promise tuition program. Through additional state funding, the program reduces student tuition to $500 a semester.

— Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

10:50 a.m. | Nov. 18, 2021

North Carolina is the final state in the nation to pass a budget. In a House vote Thursday morning, lawmakers approved the state government budget that now goes to Governor Roy Cooper. Cooper has said he will sign the bill, which designates nearly $26 billion in spending this fiscal year, and $27 billion the next.

— Cole del Charco, WUNC

2 p.m. | Nov. 17, 2021

The state budget plan Governor Roy Cooper intends to sign has an additional $1.5B in recurring funding for education.

"We're very relieved that we have a budget," said Freebird McKinney, director of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Public Instruction. "The message rings loud and clear that without a budget how could you prove that you value public education and our hardworking teachers and principals and specialized instructional support staff."

McKinney says state education officials count raises and one-time bonuses of up to 2,800 dollars for teachers as a win, along with a $15/hour minimum wage for support staff like cafeteria workers and bus drivers in 2022.

New recurring funds will guarantee a school psychologist in every district and raise funding for students with disabilities.

— Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:20 a.m. | Nov. 17, 2021

The $26 billion state budget cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday. The Republican-led state senate gave its first approval, with bi-partisan support from some Democrats. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger says Tuesday's vote came after months of budget talks with Democrats and Gov. Roy Cooper.

“What you see today, there has been a good deal of give and take as far as that is concerned,” Berger said.

The budget would lower the personal income tax rate and phase out the corporate income tax completely by the end of the decade. It also includes a minimum wage hike for hourly workers employed by the state and broadband expansion.

Those spending proposals are some of the reasons Cooper says he will sign the bill, despite some misgivings.

“While I have a veto that I know would be sustained in the Senate, this is a time when the state must move ahead,” Cooper said.

Cooper did not get the Medicaid expansion he and Democrats have long sought.

The Senate will take a final vote Wednesday, and the House will begin its debate and votes. The budget is expected to pass the full legislature be the end of the week.

— Rusty Jacobs

Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake) stands and argues against the state budget plan on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, which he says would leave five Democratic-leaning more urban counties, including Wake, out of a spending program to supplement public school teacher salaries. Blue and seven other Democrats opposed the bill in Tuesday’s crucial vote. Gov. Roy Cooper said he’d sign the bill once it clears the Legislature.
Rusty Jacobs
Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake) stands and argues against the state budget plan on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, which he says would leave five Democratic-leaning more urban counties, including Wake, out of a spending program to supplement public school teacher salaries. Blue and seven other Democrats opposed the bill in Tuesday’s crucial vote. Gov. Roy Cooper said he’d sign the bill once it clears the Legislature.

12:55 p.m. | Nov. 16, 2021

The Republican-majority state Senate approved a two-year budget plan in a crucial vote today with significant support from Democrats, including Governor Roy Cooper.

The spending plan would lower the personal income tax rate and completely phase out the corporate income tax in North Carolina by around the end of the decade.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said it's a budget the state can afford.

"And we can afford by allowing the people of the state to keep more of their hard-earned dollars," said Berger.

The budget will likely pass the full legislature by week's end and then get Governor Roy Cooper's signature. Cooper says the budget contains critical spending priorities, like expanding high-speed Internet access, teacher pay raises and funds for community colleges. The governor also says provisions that would limit executive branch authority are unconstitutional and will be litigated.

— Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

12:32 p.m. | Nov. 16, 2021

Gov. Roy Cooper says he intends to sign the nearly $26 billion state budget that is making its way through the Legislature this week.

At a news conference Tuesday, Cooper said the budget gets some things wrong, and many things right, including raises and bonuses for teachers.

“I will sign this budget because of its critical and necessary investments,” Cooper said. “And I will fight to fix its mistakes.”

Cooper cited several of those "mistakes". The budget does not expand Medicaid and includes, what he calls, misguided tax cuts. He also said he will fight – in court – a provision that would hamper the governor's powers to declare emergency protocols, as he has during the pandemic.

The State Senate is debating the budget Tuesday and the House will take it up on Wednesday.

— Dave DeWitt, WUNC

12:19 p.m. | Nov. 16, 2021

For the first time since becoming Governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper will sign the state budget into law.

“However imperfect this is, we need relief right now,” Cooper said.

On tax policy, Cooper says he supports the increase to the child credit, does not support cuts for the wealthiest.

— Jeff Tiberii, WUNC

7:24 a.m. | Nov. 16, 2021

The General Assembly is ready to begin debating its North Carolina state government budget agreement that Republicans hope ultimately will win enough Democratic support for it to soon become law. The Senate scheduled for Tuesday the first of the chamber’s two required votes on the two-year spending plan. The House will follow on Wednesday. Republican leaders didn’t find complete consensus with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, but GOP lawmakers say there are enough positives for Cooper to seriously consider signing it into law. Cooper could veto it or let it become law without his signature.

— The Associated Press

5:07 a.m. | Nov. 16, 2021

North Carolina's Republican-majority legislature has unveiled a two-year budget. The biennial spending plan includes a policy provision that would curb the governor's powers.

GOP budget writers want to reduce the personal income tax rate to 4.99% next year and to just under 4% by 2027. And the corporate income tax would be phased out completely by around the end of the decade. Most state employees would get raises and bonuses. And public school teachers would see an average 5% salary increase over the next two fiscal years.

Republican lawmakers also want to limit a governor's authority to assert emergency powers, like the ones Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper employed throughout the pandemic. Under the bill, extending a state of emergency beyond 30 days would require Council of State approval, and General Assembly approval to go beyond 60 days.

Budget passage is expected this week. Then Cooper has 10 days to sign the bill, veto it, or let it lapse into law without his signature.

— Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

4:15 p.m. | Nov. 15, 2021

A new state budget proposal unveiled Monday afternoon would provide 5% raises to nearly all state employees, reduce taxes, and save billions in the rainy day fund. But it remains unclear if this budget will receive the approval of the governor, or serve merely as the latest stop in a three-year budget impasse.

As we begin the unofficial budget week, here are some basics:

The proposed spending plan is $25.9 billion, which represents a little more than a 4% increase compared to current spending levels. It includes raises and bonuses for nearly all state employees. For this fiscal year, a salary increase of 2.5% would take place retroactive to July 1st. Another 2.5% raise is included for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Community college, UNC System, and rank and file state employees with an annual salary of $75,000 would also receive a $1,500 bonus. Workers making more than $75,000 would receive a $1,000 bonus.

Public school teachers would see increases in their step schedule under this proposed spending plan. These increases would also result in an average 5% increase over the next two years, according to legislative staff. In addition, K-12 staff would receive the same bonuses as state employees, as well as a $300 additional bonus. Also, public educators would receive a separate $1,000 retention bonus come January. This one-time lump sum would be for teachers still employed who have also completed a COVID-19 training. This bonus amounts to something of a retention bonus, and would be paid with federal funds.

This budget also includes a one-time cost of living adjustments for retired state workers, and teachers. The amounts are 2% for this year and 3% for the next fiscal year.

State lawmakers make their latest pass at altering the tax code in this budget. The plan would phase out the corporate tax rate by 2029. Presently North Carolina has the lowest corporate rate (2.5%) of any state in the country with a corporate tax. This bill also eliminates taxes on military pension income.

The vast majority of North Carolinians would see a tax cut under this budget. The standard deduction – your zero-tax threshold – would increase for all filers. Meanwhile, the personal income tax rate would be cut (or reduced) in each of the next six years. Presently the personal income tax rate is 5.25%. In 2022 it would drop to 4.99%, and then eventually down to 3.99% after 2026.

Between the budget bill and the money report there are nearly 1400 pages to sift through, so rest assured reporters will be finding other morsels in the days ahead.

See a rundown of other provisions here.

Jeff Tiberii and Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

4 p.m. | Nov. 15, 2021

GOP leaders have been in negotiations with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for several months, but late last week Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) — the House Appropriations Chairman — told WUNC that negotiations had become exhausted and it was "time to move forward."

“You know, (Cooper) has been included and we’ve certainly appreciated his input on many of this issues in the budget, but he has not signed off at this point,” said Saine.

In a statement, Cooper did not indicate if he would sign or veto the budget, saying he "will make a decision to sign or veto the budget based on what is best for the people of North Carolina."

Two Democratic lawmakers confirmed to WUNC that Cooper “runs a high risk of an override” if he vetoes the spending plan.

Since Democrats broke GOP supermajority margins, Cooper has upheld 37 seven consecutive vetoes.

WUNC will update this story as the budget makes its way through the Legislature this week.

Jeff Tiberii, WUNC

WUNC Digital News Reporters Mitch Northam and Laura Pellicer contributed to this report.

Stories, features and more by WUNC News Staff. Also, features and commentary not by any one reporter.
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