- Associated Press - Thursday, June 7, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Republicans started to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of state budget adjustments for next year Thursday, again endorsing their bill despite Cooper’s critique that focused on education, taxes and parliamentary procedure.

The state Senate voted 34-13 to enact the $23.9 billion spending plan, which alters the second year of the two-year budget approved in 2017. Cooper vetoed that budget bill, too, and GOP lawmakers overrode it.

The same outcome is anticipated this year once the GOP-controlled House considers an override vote. Speaker Tim Moore said his chamber will debate the budget veto early next week.

After Cooper vetoed the budget Wednesday, the governor said the legislature’s plan didn’t do enough on public education spending and teacher pay compared with his own budget proposal. He also wanted to block corporate and individual income tax cuts for the highest wage earners already set to take effect in January.

Republicans kept the tax cuts in place and passed a budget with average 6.5 percent teacher pay increases, along with significant raises on average for correctional officers and state troopers. Full-time state employees also would have to be paid at least $31,200 a year - the equivalent of $15 per hour - a minimum that would benefit thousands of low-income workers.

Senate Republicans jumped on an analysis by the General Assembly’s nonpartisan researchers showing that Cooper’s budget offer would have led to a $470 million gap between projected revenues and expenditures by mid-2019. Such holes have been closed in the past under Democratic legislators by spending cuts or tax increases.

“You can agree with the governor and say this is a bad budget and accept his premise of going back to the old days … or we can pass this budget by overriding the governor’s veto,” said Sen. Harry Brown, an Onslow County Republican and chief budget-writer. He called the GOP budget sensible and balanced, and said it addresses the state’s priorities.

Cooper said Wednesday that the Republican budget was irresponsible and that more tax reductions will make it harder to find revenues necessary to meet the needs of a growing state. Cooper’s budget office disagrees with the legislature’s analysis, estimating $165 million in unspent funds available by mid-2019.

Cooper and his allies also complained that the budget was negotiated privately by House and Senate Republicans, with no chance for lawmakers to offer amendments publicly.

“The budget that the governor vetoed is riddled with holes and land mines, and people will come to see that in the coming weeks,” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue said Thursday. “North Carolinians were shortchanged and shut out of your budget … and it puts special interests ahead of families.”

The GOP budget adjustments, which largely would take effect July 1, also would spend $220 million on government building projects and repairs and set aside essentially the same amount in the state’s rainy-day reserve, putting the balance above $2 billion.

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