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'The good outweighs the bad': NC Gov. Cooper says he will sign GOP budget proposal

Gov. Roy Cooper said he will sign the budget proposal from Republicans despite "missed opportunities" and differences with leaders.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he will sign the budget proposal presented to him by top Republican lawmakers after lengthy negotiations. 

"On balance, the good outweighs the bad," Cooper said. "It moves North Carolina forward in important ways, many that are critical to our state's progress as we move out of this pandemic."

Cooper said the budget is a "budget of missed opportunities and misguided opportunities," but praised the bipartisan effort between Republicans and Democrats. Republican leaders presented the budget Monday, promising massive infrastructure investments, raises for state employees and teachers, as well as an income tax cut. The budget does not include widespread Medicaid expansion, which has been one of Cooper's aspirations since taking office in 2017.

"I'm clear-eyed that there are ways we differed and places the Legislature got it wrong," Cooper said. "Most obviously, this budget fails to extend health care to hundreds of thousands of people by expanding Medicaid." 

Cooper also criticized the tax breaks, which he claimed were directed more toward corporations and the wealthy than lower-income North Carolinians. 

RELATED: Here's what's in North Carolina's long-overdue budget

"By signing this budget, I want to make it clear that I do not consent the constitutionality of these provisions," Cooper said. "However, there are critical funding opportunities in this budget that we must seize now in this extraordinary time. Many of those opportunities would evaporate if I were to veto the budget and Republicans simply left Raleigh than re-enter negotiations."

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt applauded the budget proposal, saying it will allow for "progress" in hiring and maintaining staff. her full statement reads: 

“This budget highlights many of the priorities that I have been advocating for since coming to office, and it provides the certainty we need to continue addressing the challenges that transpired because of COVID.

School and district staff worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and their efforts have been nothing short of remarkable. I’m pleased to see salary increases for teachers, school support staff, and principals in addition to the bonus options for educators and the newly-established Supplementary Fund for low-wealth districts, enabling them to increase teacher pay and retain staff. Additional funding in this budget allows us to progress in hiring more school psychologists, maintain statewide literacy training efforts and address the workforce demands of today and the future with a new computer science division at the department. Importantly, funding in this bill will expand and increase our ability to continue customizing support for low performing schools and districts in our state. 

I appreciate the General Assembly’s efforts to craft a budget that puts us on a path towards much needed stability and allows for us to continue investing in our students, our education leaders, and our school districts. I look forward to Governor Cooper signing this into law and appreciate his recognition of how this budget supports students, small businesses and taxpayers across North Carolina.”

Votes on the budget are scheduled for this week. If passed, it will head to Cooper's desk for a signature. House Speaker Tim Moore told WCNC Charlotte the proposal is a good compromise after negotiations between Cooper and Republican officials. 

“This budget represents months of hard work and good-faith negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, and our governor," Moore said in a statement. "Although we have many differences, we each had the common goal of coming together to create a spending plan for the state, one of the General Assembly’s most important constitutional obligations. In the end, I am confident that we have come together to design a budget that truly meets the most critical needs of all North Carolinians."

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When Cooper signs the budget, it would be the first time North Carolina has had a full budget since the 2018-19 fiscal year after the governor vetoed other GOP-backed proposals. 

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