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For more than a month, the Republican party majority in the General Assembly has held the state budget hostage by refusing to negotiate with Gov. Cooper and legislative Democrats. The fact is that the Democratic budget compromise is better for Granville County, but the Republican leadership is more interested in scoring political points than helping North Carolinians.
Rather than working with Gov. Cooper, me, and Rep. Terry Garrison, the Republican majority is using Granville County as a bargaining chip, offering the new Department of Health and Human Services’ headquarters as a bribe to seven other counties if their legislators will vote to override the governor’s veto. This is not responsible governing, and the priorities outlined in the budget should not be for sale.
Critics and the media have suggested that Gov. Cooper’s veto was motivated solely by the widely popular call to expand Medicaid. While closing the health care coverage gap for more than 600,000 North Carolinians — including 3,300 in Granville County — is a top priority for the governor, Rep. Garrison, and me, it was not the sole motivation in proposing a better budget.
Our budget will increase teacher pay by an average of 8.5 percent, with a raise for each teacher, and re-establish master’s degree bonuses. The Republican budget proposes only a 3.8 percent raise.
In our budget, Granville County’s 2,145 state employees and school support personnel would receive a 5 percent raise, while employees at Vance-Granville Community College would receive a 4 percent raise. Only 27 percent of our state employees would receive the 5 percent raise promised in the Republican budget, while school support personnel and VGCC employees would receive just 2 percent. State retirees would also fare better, with our budget providing a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment compared to just 1 percent COLA.
By combining the governor’s bond initiative and the legislature’s capital fund, our budget will result in $18.2 million for Granville County Schools’ capital projects, up from the original $14 million. And, very significantly, all the capital projects for VGCC, SGWASA, and the Granville Health System will be funded.
Being prepared for storms and other emergencies is also a priority, and our budget includes $110 million in hurricane relief and $700 million for the state’s “rainy day” fund.
And since it’s gotten so much attention, how about Medicaid? Our budget will provide health care coverage for 3,300 people in Granville County, resulting in 135 new jobs, $27 million in new economic activity, and $550,000 in new county revenue. Closing the coverage gap is a win-win for Granville County by taking better care of our neighbors and generating solid economic activity. And remember: these are funds we are already paying now and sending to other states.
It’s easy to get lost in all these big numbers, so how will our budget help the average hard-working family in Granville County? The great news is that they will see tax cuts as the budget raises the standard deduction that was originally proposed. And more children will be able to enroll in early childhood education and Smart Start programs.
Additionally, by reformulating the unemployment insurance tax, we will reduce the tax burden on local businesses. This will actually produce more revenue, which we propose to fund workforce training and community college scholarships.
Rep. Garrison and I have worked very hard to understand Granville County’s priorities and to ensure they are included in the state budget. Working with Gov. Cooper and his administration, we have offered a compromise budget that comes closer to meeting these priorities. Please urge Rep. Larry Yarborough to join us in supporting this better budget.
Sen. Mike Woodard serves in the North Carolina General Assembly representing Senate District 22, comprising Granville, Person and Durham counties.