by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
Both the General Assembly and Dem. Gov. Roy Cooper have shared their budget priorities this week. They both tackle the same issues, but with very different methods. For instance, on the issue of education, Cooper wants to cut the Opportunity Scholarship program and give teachers a bonus, while the General Assembly’s priorities are to provide monetary support to parents and increase funds for a grant program for children with disabilities. Dr. Terry Stoops explained Cooper’s plan in a recent research brief:
It wouldn’t be a Roy Cooper budget without a wink and a nod to public school and higher education personnel… Cooper’s budget would throw $360 million in one-time dollars for across-the-board teacher and principal bonuses ($2,000), noncertified public school employees ($1,000), and UNC System and community college employees ($1,500)…
Cooper’s daughter attended a private school in Raleigh, but his budget would prohibit thousands of families with modest incomes from having the same opportunity. Cooper’s plan would eliminate $85 million in funding for the continued expansion of North Carolina’s popular private school scholarship program for low-income children.
Carolina Journal’s Lindsay Marchello explains the General Assembly’s plan, announced on Tuesday:
Parents have faced unexpected costs because schools have shifted to full-time remote learning, Jackson said. The COVID-19 package includes a $440 million “Extra Credit Grants” program to help offset costs related to remote learning, he said.
Under the program, households with at least one dependent child would get a $325 tax credit. Parents who didn’t file taxes this year will have to apply to the program.
…The bill provides millions for grants to support child care centers and community-based organizations. More than $6 million would go toward eliminating waitlists for the Children with Disabilities Grant Program and the Education Savings Account Program.
Another area in which the plans differ is unemployment benefits. Marchello explains:
Republican lawmakers’ proposal includes an across-the-board boost to unemployment benefits of $200 per month. Cooper wanted to increase unemployment from $350 a week for 12 weeks to $500 a week for 24 weeks.
Additionally, Cooper’s plan requires more spending than the General Assembly’s. JLF’s Joe Coletti writes in a recent research brief:
Revenue for the current year is projected to be $23.5 billion. Cooper would use all of that revenue, plus $85 million from Opportunity Scholarships, $17 million in interest savings on state debt, and $1.5 billion unspent from previous years to pay for his $25 billion plan. With just $559 million in one-time expenses, that means he would use $1 billion in one-time money to pay for continuing programs.
As if that weren’t enough, Cooper would ask voters to take on $4.3 billion in new debt — and add another $988 million in debt without seeking voters’ permission.