In a time in which so many politicians prioritize division and controversy – think of Florida’s Ron DeSantis and his absurd and destructive culture wars – Cooper keeps trying to build bridges and find common ground.
For the latest example, see the new state budget proposal Cooper unveiled last week.
On the one hand, and as you’d expect, the proposal advances some long-delayed progressive priorities: expanding Medicaid to close the state’s deadly health insurance coverage gap, funding the public school improvement plan ordered by the courts in the landmark Leandro lawsuit, and addressing a host of urgent needs to help protect our increasingly fragile natural environment.
That said, the proposal also extends olive branches to Republicans that will give some of the governor’s supporters and allies heartburn – most notably preserving a host of recent tax cuts that benefit large, out-of-state corporations and the state’s wealthiest individuals. Cooper didn’t support these cuts when they were enacted, but he’s clearly decided that responsible leadership sometimes depends on compromise, and he has obviously opted for what he sees as the politics of the possible this spring.
Of course, even bending over backwards hardly assures that Cooper will receive a productive – or even polite – response from the GOP leadership in the General Assembly. This is, after all, a group of politicians that has repeatedly embraced what can only be described as an “our-way-or-the-highway” approach to budgeting – even if that means an array of essential public structures and services end up being forced to make do on obsolete and inadequate allocations that assure unnecessary human suffering.
This spring, GOP lawmakers would do the state an enormous service if they would, at long last, step up and meet Cooper halfway.
Here’s a brief, by-the-numbers look at a few of the highlights and facts surrounding Cooper’s proposal:
$29.3 billion – amount the proposed budget would appropriate in FY 2023, which commences July 1, 2022
Approximately 8% – increase this represents over the $27 billion that had been budgeted
Approximately 8% – overall inflation in the U.S. economy during the past 12 months
4.6% – share of the total state economy that the $27 billion figure represents
45+ years – length of time since the state devoted such a small share of its economy to General Fund spending
5.8% – average during that 45-year period
$4.24 billion – surplus amount by which state economists expect tax revenues to exceed predictions for the current fiscal year that ends June 30
Approximately 15% – percentage surplus this represents
$6.7 billion – amount Cooper’s proposal would allot to various reserve funds
$525.8 million – amount Cooper would allocate to the school improvement plan that stems from the state’s long-running Leandro school funding lawsuit
5% – size of the raise Cooper proposes for the state’s teachers and state employees
$89.7 million – proposed allocation to expand access to early childhood education for children up to age 5
$687 million – amount proposed for K-12 and University of North Carolina system construction projects, repairs and renovations
600,000 – number of uninsured North Carolinians whom Cooper would make eligible for the state’s Medicaid program
$0 – amount this would cost the state; Cooper’s proposal reports that “The federal government pays 90% of the cost, while hospital assessments and the Prepaid Health Plan (PHP)premium taxes that health insurance companies in North Carolina pay would cover the remaining 10%.”
$50 million – amount proposed to aid first-time homebuyers with down payment assistance for eligible public school teachers, career firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, and sworn law enforcement officers
$27.7 million – proposed appropriation to the North Carolina Housing Trust Fund; the report calls it “the State’s most flexible funding source for affordable housing [that] is primarily used for emergency repairs, accessibility modifications for low-income homeowners, and new affordable housing development, including for people with disabilities or who are homeless.
$15 million – proposed allocation for low-income households to reduce energy costs and afford clean energy sources
$18 million – amount proposed to buy out hog farms in the 100-year floodplain
$113.3 million – amount allocated to the $15 per hour minimum wage for permanent state employees to temporary and seasonal workers and to employees paid through state contracts
44 – number of days between May 18 (the day lawmakers are next scheduled to be in Raleigh) and the start of the new fiscal year
Click here to explore the budget proposal in detail.
Click here to see the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center’s analysis from last fall which showed the ongoing and precipitous decline in public spending in recent state budgets,.