Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that if the state's USA senators, Republicans Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, want to help North Carolina deal with the opioid crisis, they would help stop the health care legislation now before Congress. The Democratic governor had already announced Monday his plans to reject the two-year spending plan, which he says neglects public education and the state's economy while giving tax cuts to the highest wage-earners and corporations.
GOP legislative leaders have vowed to override the veto, which they have the votes to accomplish if Republicans remain united. The first, Governor Bev Perdue in 2011, was overridden.
They ignored Cooper's pitch of a Hail Mary pass in which he said he'd sign a compromise measure of the budget bill in another form if legislators met his demands.
"Gov. Cooper has broken some of his biggest promises to the voters, and they will hold him accountable", Berger and Moore said in a statement.
The $23 billion budget would give teachers an average pay raise of 3.3 percent - weighted toward experienced teachers - in the coming year, and would raise most other state employees' pay by a flat $1,000.
"It is literally pie in the sky", he said referring to Cooper's calculations, "and maybe that is what he hopes it is so that he can criticize it, but that's just not the case".
Most of those changes will be non-starters with Republican lawmakers, but Cooper said he will continue to urge "fair minded" Republican and Democrats who voted for the budget headed to his desk to do better.
Cooper's veto message also sets the stage for a possible legal challenge to the budget's changes to the governor's powers.
"I said at the very first meeting that we are kidding ourselves if we don't think what's going on in Congress right now with health care and the taking away of health insurance coverage from millions of people is not going to hurt our battle against the opioid crisis", Cooper said. Cooper sought at least 10 percent.
In an email, Lew Ebert, president and CEO of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, called the "competitive" tax changes "one of the many necessary ingredients to being one of the best states to do business, which in turn allows us to invest in education and infrastructure". The GOP budget gives no increases to new teachers and only $300, plus bonuses, to the most veteran teachers.
Cooper used the occasion to announce a series of steps to try to stem the number of opioid overdoses, which he said has claimed more than 12,000 lives in the state since 1999, including about 1,200 a year ago.
"The budget should ensure that a kid from Nash County gets the same great education as a kid from Wake County", Cooper said.