LUMBERTON — The spending plan that cleared the North Carolina General Assembly on Friday contains $6 million for the School of Business at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
The state goverment budget for 2018-19 has been sent to Gov. Roy Cooper, who will have 10 days to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.
“We are grateful to the General Assembly for their continued strong support of UNC Pembroke,” said Robin Gary Cummings, UNCP chancellor. “Due to its promise of driving economic development across southeastern North Carolina, the UNCP School of Business has generated an outpouring of support from legislators, private donors, foundations, and corporations, in addition to voters throughout the state who overwhelmingly approved the 2016 Connect NC Bond. The $6 million appropriation in this year’s budget is a critical step in bringing this transformative project closer to reality.”
The money for the School of Business is one of 19 funding allocations meant specifically for Robeson County. The other 18 add up to more than $145,000 in state money.
The state House gave the spending plan final approval on a nearly party-line vote of 66-44. The Senate finished its debate and votes on Thursday. All three Democrats in Robeson County House delegation, Reps. Ken Goodman, Charles Graham and Garland Pierce, voted against the budget on Friday. Robeson County’s lone Republican delegate, Rep. Brenden Jones, cast a yes vote.
General Assembly approval of alterations to the second year of the two-year, $23.9 billion state government budget sets up a repeat performance of last year’s process, when Cooper, a Democratic, vetoed the spending plan and Republican legislators overrode him.
Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said the governor will review the spending plan in the coming days.
The governor hasn’t said publicly what he’ll do, but it’s unlikely he’d support a measure that House and Senate Democrats voted nearly unanimously against after vociferous criticism during nine hours of combined floor debate this week.
Cooper has promoted his own budget proposal, which would have spent $600 million more in the year starting July 1 compared to the GOP plan, which already represents a nearly $900 million spending increase compared to this year. Cooper wanted more money in part to raise average teacher pay and invest in school-safety improvements beyond what Republicans propose.
The chief pivot on the competing plans is taxes. The Republicans’ proposal retains income-tax cuts already set to take effect next January — reducing the corporate rate from 3 percent to 2.5 percent and the individual rate from 5.499 percent to 5.25 percent. Cooper would find extra money to pay for his initiatives by blocking the corporate cut and keeping the higher individual rate on income above $100,000 for single filers and $200,000 for married couples.
“Gov. Cooper’s budget proposed tax fairness for teacher pay along with forward thinking investments while saving responsibly,” Porter said in a release.
Republicans have veto-proof majorities, and their votes on the budget earlier this week indicate they would be likely to override a Cooper veto just as they did in 2017.
House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County took the unusual step Friday of debating the budget bill from the floor, highlighting average pay raises of 6.5 percent for teachers and a $700 million year-over-year increase in overall public education funding.
“Today is an opportunity with this budget that we have before us to expand on the good work that’s been done,” Moore said. “We’ve actually made a huge, consistent investment in education.”
Moore also defended this year’s parliamentary process, in which House and Senate Republicans negotiated privately for weeks before a final deal was reached, then blocked anyone from offering amendments. Much of the floor debate questioned whether the process increased efficiency or damaged representative democracy.
“This whole process has bothered me,” Rep. Billy Richardson, a Cumberland County Democrat, told Republicans. “We’re frustrated. We genuinely want to work with you. We genuinely want to be a part of this process.”
Friday’s debate looked ahead to the November elections, when energized Democrats are hoping to end the Republicans’ veto-proof majorities and possibly take control of a chamber for the first time since 2010.
“North Carolinians are smart,” Minority Leader Darren Jackson of Wake County said. “They know that Gov. Cooper’s budget was better for them.”
Moore said Democrats used hyperbole when television cameras were on. And senior budget writer Rep. Nelson Dollar of Wake County accused Democrats of promoting a tax-and-spend policy that “sure makes it easy at election time” for Republicans to campaign against.