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Friday December 3rd

Gov. Cooper's budget proposal focuses on healthcare and education

NC Governor Roy Cooper attends the UNC versus Duke game UNC at the Smith Center on Saturday, March 9, 2019. The Tar Heels defeated Duke 70-79 to become ACC regular season champions.
Buy Photos NC Governor Roy Cooper attends the UNC versus Duke game UNC at the Smith Center on Saturday, March 9, 2019. The Tar Heels defeated Duke 70-79 to become ACC regular season champions.

Gov. Roy Cooper released his recommended state budget for 2019-2021 this month. The plan primarily focuses on three specific aspects: reforms for public schools, increased accessibility of healthcare and more statewide economic opportunity. 

Cooper’s budget prioritizes public education. The aim is that North Carolina would become the leader in teacher pay in the Southeastern United States in four years. Cooper believes the key to this lies in investing in better pay and respect for teachers and principals. According to a press release from the governor's office, teachers would see an average pay raise of 9.1 percent over two years.

Other changes would include paying principals on both experience and the size of the student body they lead. Cooper also proposes restoring extra pay for teachers, providing instructional support for those who hold higher education degrees in the subject they teach and eliminating the requirement that teachers pay for their own substitutes on personal leave days. 

Cooper also wants to change the budget on the healthcare front. 

“It’s time to help the half a million North Carolinians without health insurance, doctors, nurses and our rural hospitals, law enforcement fighting opioids, businesses, and our overall economy by expanding Medicaid,” Cooper said in the press release.

More broadly, Cooper is emphasizing economic prosperity. The budget includes $145 million for rural economic development, expanded internet access and more affordable housing. Cooper also has proposed investing $15 million over two years to revitalize communities and encourage companies to locate or expand in North Carolina’s 80 rural counties.

There have been mixed reactions to Cooper’s plan.  

"It should also be pointed out that the budget the Governor rolled out last week includes a boatload of great ideas – both large and small,”Rob Schofield, director of N.C. Policy Watch, wrote in a weekly update released by the organization. 

He said proposals are very important and would dramatically improve the lives of millions of people.

“His proposal to close the Medicaid gap promises to save thousands of lives, draw down billions of federal dollars into the state’s economy and create thousands of jobs,” Schofield said. 

However, Schofield acknowledges some objections to Cooper's proposal. 

“All that said, one can’t help but wish that Cooper had offered some kind of more determined push-back against the structural budget deficit that Republicans have imposed on the state in recent years," he said.

One objection is the lack of changes to the tax code, seemingly ignoring the needs of several state communities.

“Given the political realities that remain on Jones Street, the Governor’s budget makes no changes to the state tax code, which is upside-down and inadequate to meet the needs of a growing state," Alexandra Sirota of the N.C. Budget and Tax Center wrote on the organization's website. "In many areas, priorities identified in communities and by North Carolinians will continue to go unmet."

Donald Bryson, president of the Civitas Institute, said taxpayers are not being given an account of what exactly they would be funding. 

“My initial reaction to the governor’s education budget is that the governor has no real policy goals other than to spend more money on education,” he said. 

In terms of Cooper’s healthcare plans, Bryson also said there are other things that could be done to improve healthcare access and quality rather than expanding Medicaid.

"Expanding Medicaid would assist rural hospitals in keeping their doors open, help fight the opioid epidemic, and secure North Carolina’s share of federal tax dollars that are currently paying to support Medicaid expansion in other states," said the press release from the governor's office.

The N.C. House of Representatives is expected to release its budget proposal in late April or early May.

@andreaefthy

city@dailytarheel.com

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