North Carolina

Seeking to end NC budget impasse, Cooper talks to educators

RALEIGH, N.C. — RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said Republican lawmakers need to meet with him to end a budget stalemate and give North Carolina public school teachers and staff better raises than what the GOP offered in the spending bill he vetoed.

[Cooper: I'll veto North Carolina budget from Republicans]

Cooper talked to some teachers and other education workers during a roundtable discussion at the Executive Mansion on Tuesday. It was the latest made-for-media event Cooper has held to try to persuade GOP lawmakers to negotiate a final two-year budget, which was supposed to be in place July 1.

Several previous roundtables have emphasized Cooper's support for expanding Medicaid, which Republican legislative leaders oppose.

But Cooper also has said the GOP measure didn't do enough for education salaries and spending, blaming the shortages upon the additional corporate tax reductions in the Republican budget for scaling back some revenues. He heard from educators lamenting the lack of pay increases for veteran teachers in recent years and the lack of funds for classroom materials and textbooks.

"Our current teachers need to feel respected and applauded and affirmed for their work so that they can then inspire future teachers," Carrie Tulbert, principal of Northview Middle School in Statesville, told Cooper.

Cooper talked up his latest salary offer - an average 8.5% raise over two years for teachers, which is more than double the average raises that are included in the GOP's budget proposal. All teachers would get a raise under Cooper's plan.

Cooper is unhappy that Republican leaders haven't made a counteroffer to his July proposal. He pushed back against Republican arguments that it's the governor who is unwilling to negotiate because he won't set aside his demand for Medicaid expansion.

"If you're going to start a negotiation and the other side says, 'I won't talk to you until you take your No. 1 issue off the table and out of the equation,' what kind of negotiation is that?" Cooper asked. "If they don't want Medicaid expansion in their counteroffer, don't put Medicaid expansion in your counteroffer. But they have done nothing."

Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, said in a release Tuesday that Cooper's trying to conceal the fact that it's his veto that has blocked teacher pay raises from taking effect. The GOP-controlled legislature has approved teacher pay raises of some kind for the previous five consecutive years. North Carolina's average teacher pay ranking among the states has increased because of that.