In North Carolina, Spring is just a few weeks away, but budget season is already here. On Wednesday, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper released his proposed state budget for the 2023-25 biennium, proposing to spend $32.95 billion in the first year of the biennium, an increase of nearly five billion dollars from the current fiscal year’s budget. The proposal places a primary emphasis on public education, with $4.5 billion to invest in school construction, and to provide an average raise of 18% for teachers, with every teacher receiving at least a 10% raise in the first year. The plan also calls for 1,000 additional school nurses and social workers and raises for school personnel like bus drivers and counselors. Additionally, on the heels of the General Assembly inching closer to expanding Medicaid, the Governor’s budget would designate $1 billion to community care facilities, schools, and prisons to address mental health.
The Governor’s budget would also reverse some of the tax cuts implemented by the General Assembly during last year’s session. Although the budget proposal would not increase any taxes, it would halt the scheduled income tax deduction for individuals earning more than $200,000 and would stop the scheduled phasing out of the state’s corporate income tax. In response, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) released a statement calling the Governor’s proposal “an irresponsible, unserious proposal from a lame-duck governor who wants future North Carolinians to pick up his tab.” House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) echoed the same sentiment, saying the Governor’s budget “takes the same reckless approach to spending that his fellow Democrats have taken in Washington.”
Because the General Assembly is controlled by Republicans, the Governor’s budget proposal will not ultimately be adopted or followed. However, lawmakers can find the document helpful because of specific agency requests within the proposal that have bipartisan support. At the conclusion of a joint meeting with House and Senate leaders Thursday morning where the Governor’s proposal was presented, Senator Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, told members a “real budget” would be released soon.