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General Assembly overrides budget veto with help of local legislators

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County’s legislators this week voted with the majority when the N.C. General Assembly overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget.

Cooper’s veto of the $23 billion spending plan was presented to the legislature Tuesday. The state Senate vetoed the override the same day. The House vetoed to override on Wednesday.

Cooper said he vetoed the budget for reasons that include neglecting schools and the economy, giving tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, shortchanging the workforce and schools, failing to account for population growth and using one-time revenue to pay for recurring expenses.

Local legislators such as Rep. Carl Ford, R-76, question what was worth disliking.

“The override was the right thing to do,” Ford said. “It’s a good budget with tax cuts, savings and raises for employees and the potential for huge job announcements. What’s not to like?”

Rep. Harry Warren, R-77, said Cooper’s veto was disappointing because the budget includes raises for teachers, state employees and retirees, income tax cuts and an increase in overall education funding.

“It’s particularly hurtful because his veto would cost Rowan County the additional assistant district attorney position that we’ve worked so hard to get,” Warren said. “Fortunately for the citizens of North Carolina, his veto will be overridden.”

The state Senate overrode Cooper’s veto along party lines by a 48-34 count. Both of Rowan County’s state senators — Andrew Brock, R-34, and Tom McInnis, R-25 — were among the 48 senators voting in favor of the budget. Neither immediately returned requests for comment on Wednesday.

In an interview last week, however, Brock suggested Cooper should sign the budget and take credit for some of the economic growth in the state. Last week, McInnis said the budget may not fully fund all of Cooper’s requests but it addressed everything he asked for.

The state House voted to override the veto by a 76-43 count.

The budget sets state government spending for the next two fiscal years. The 2017-18 fiscal year starts this weekend.

Local projects or allocations include money for another assistant district attorney in Rowan County; $135,000 for downtown revitalization for the Davie County town of Cooleemee; $100,000 for downtown revitalization in Kannapolis; $100,000 for the East Spencer Housing Authority; and $35,000 for ongoing work in China Grove’s Hanna Park, according to local legislators.

In addition to raises and tax deductions, statewide items include an increase in the age at which juveniles can be charged as adults from 16 to 18 and $10 million for opioid and other substance abuse treatment centers.

Democrats have expressed opposition to the budget because of cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, cuts to Legal Aid, no teacher stipends, inadequate teacher raises, millions of dollars in cuts to the N.C. Attorney General’s Office, and earmarks for pork projects.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cooper responded to the legislature’s override and said the General Assembly had doubled down on the wrong priorities.

“I said I would sign a budget if legislators would target the income tax breaks to middle-class families and invest the savings on education and job creation,” Cooper said in an emailed statement. “Unfortunately, legislative Republicans refuse to compromise and have passed a budget that leaves middle-class families behind. We must do better for our students and working families.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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