- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina Republicans on Tuesday started canceling Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget, with the Senate overriding the Democratic governor’s formal complaints that the two-year spending plan gives too many tax cuts and not enough to public education.

By voting 34-14 - well above the three-fifths majority required in the state Constitution - the Senate moved the expected override halfway to completion. Only a similar House vote stands in the way of the budget becoming law. A House override vote was scheduled for early Wednesday.

Republicans hold veto-proof majorities and have overridden each of Cooper’s four previous vetoes since he took office in January.

Cooper announced Monday that he would veto the budget, which would take effect this weekend and would spend $23 billion in the first year of the two-year spending plan.

In his written veto message sent to legislators Tuesday, Cooper repeated his objections that the GOP budget cut tax rates for the highest wage earners and for corporations. Both rates have already dropped multiple times since the first tax GOP overhaul was approved in 2013.

“This budget neglects our schools and our economy at a time when North Carolina should be making public education stronger, not giving special breaks to those at the top,” Cooper wrote.

Reading his own letter to Cooper, Senate leader Phil Berger said during the override debate that the budget contained many ideas that Cooper sought publicly, including a tax cut for the middle class and expanded pre-kindergarten for at-risk 4-year-olds. Education spending also would increase by nearly $700 million.

“Your veto is only the latest in a disappointing pattern of you publicly claiming to want to work together while doing the opposite,” Berger wrote.

The bill also includes average teacher raises of 3.3 percent next school year and 9.6 percent over two years. Berger said that’s in line with the roughly 10 percent raises over two years that Cooper had recommended in his budget proposal in March.

But Cooper said his plan would have given all teachers sizeable raises. The GOP budget gives no increases to new teachers and only $300, plus bonuses, to the most veteran teachers. Republicans also emphasized expanding bonuses to educators based on a number of factors.

Cooper also mentioned budget provisions he said infringe on his ability to carry out laws - arguments his lawyers already have made in court about other laws that eroded gubernatorial powers and that he sued over. Budget language would make it difficult for Cooper to hire outside attorneys to sue using taxpayer dollars.

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