Earlier this month, the General Assembly passed a $25.9 billion budget for the first time since 2018. The budget was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, but that doesn’t mean it fills the needs of many North Carolinians.
Despite signing the new budget into law, Gov. Roy Cooper said the new budget “missed opportunities” and had “politically and unnecessary missteps.”
Prior to Cooper’s signature, North Carolina was the only state in the country without an operating budget for the fiscal year.
Passing the budget was stalled for months because of disagreements between the North Carolina House and Senate, Republican infighting and stalemating negotiations between the General Assembly and the Governor.
The shortcomings of the budget include a lack of funding for K-12 education, especially failing to fulfill the constitutional obligation laid out by the court-ordered Leandro Plan. The budget puts in place less than half of what was required by the plan, which calls for $690.7 million this year and $1.06 billion next year.
The only benefit the budget does provide is a five percent pay increase to teachers over the next two years, but this is nowhere near what was asked for by policy advocates or educators themselves.
The budget is also concerning given its unsustainable corporate tax cuts, which chiefly benefit people of higher socioeconomic status and corporations.
The lackluster funding is a theme of the budget at large — a small step toward progress, but nowhere near enough. It seems Cooper and the Democrats have bent to the will of the Republican-controlled General Assembly for the sake of having a budget after all these years.
Having a functioning budget to work from is important to provide a blueprint to work from and operate within. But this 761-page document is nowhere near the progress we needed in North Carolina.