Inside Politics

Perdue takes on Republicans over education

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue confronted the Republican leadership in the General Assembly Thursday with a budget proposal that would increase the state sales tax to replace lost federal funding for education.

Perdue's nearly $21 billion spending plan for the coming year includes a three-quarter cent increase in the state sales tax. The proposal is an adjustment of the second year of a two-year budget the legislature approved in 2011 over her veto.

Perdue's sales tax plan would raise $760 million, which she would distribute by giving $562 million to K-12 schools, $145 million to public universities, $53 million to community colleges, and $25 million to North Carolina pre-K programs.

"This budget invests in the priorities that all North Carolinians share," Perdue said. "We must strengthen our ability to educate and prepare North Carolina's children for the future. We must make concrete investments to help companies create jobs. And we must stand up for our military families."

Republicans called the sales tax hike "dead on arrival" when Perdue first suggested it in January, and their tune hadn't changed this week.

"[To] arbitrarily to take a look at federal dollars that came into North Carolina and replace those dollars with state money is the wrong approach," said Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, (R) Rockingham in an interview with ABC11 Wednesday.

In a statement after Perdue's announcement Thursday, Berger questioned the timing, saying it's just a week before the General Assembly's short session, and governor's historically do it weeks in advance in order to give lawmaker's time to study their proposals.

"Governor Perdue's budget would force North Carolina families and businesses to pay nearly $1 billion in new job-killing taxes. This could shatter our fragile economic recovery. We must break state government's habit of throwing money at problems and adopt innovative solutions and meaningful reforms. The cycle of irresponsible taxing, borrowing, and spending must stop," he offered.

But Perdue said her plan would save/create 11,000 education jobs across the state and mean a lower class size in grades K through 3. It would also mean a 1.8 percent average pay increase for teachers and restore funding for the Governor's schools and schools for the deaf.

Perdue plan expands beyond education with an average pay increase for all government workers of 1.8 percent. It also includes a tax credit to encourage small business to hire post-911 veterans or unemployed North Carolinians and retain them for at least a year.

It would provide tuition assistance for some military and their dependents.

Click here to read the full budget proposal (.pdf)

Senator Berger said Wednesday he has his own plan for an education overhaul and said he expects it will at least pass in the Senate before lawmakers leave Raleigh mid-summer. 

Among the other things he hopes to get done: cutting the gas tax, passing a natural gas and energy development bill, and regulatory reform. 

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(Copyright ©2014 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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