Statement from Senator Berger on the Budget and Teacher Pay
Raleigh, N.C. — In an effort to provide a clear and concise review of where things stand with the budget, including teacher pay, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement.
“Senate Democrats have a choice to make in January.
“For months, Governor Roy Cooper and I publicly expressed an intent to each other and the public that we were willing to negotiate, and I’m sure we both wanted to reach an agreement. We even broke Bojangles biscuits together. However, negotiations never got off the ground, and the primary reason is disagreement over Medicaid expansion. In my view the entire state budget should not be held up over a single policy disagreement, but that is where we are.
“My most recent conversation with Governor Cooper took place on October 22. During that phone call, the Governor asked to negotiate changes in the teacher pay provisions in the budget separate and apart from the rest of the budget. Because teacher pay is a $5 billion budget expenditure, even tiny adjustments will cause huge changes elsewhere. It is impossible to negotiate teacher pay in isolation.
“For that reason, I told the Governor I would negotiate teacher pay changes as part of a larger negotiation on the entire budget. The Governor declined, citing his months-long insistence on Medicaid expansion being part of any broader budget deal.
“We clearly know that Governor Cooper refuses to consider a budget without inclusion of Medicaid expansion. Faced with that reality, the only pathway that exists to provide teachers with a pay raise is for the bipartisan budget to be enacted through a veto override.
“It is entirely up to Senate Democrats whether we enact a new budget and provide teachers with pay raises or if we continue with the existing budget through 2020. Since the budget initially passed the Senate with a bipartisan supermajority, it is my hope that the same bipartisan supermajority will vote for it again. But, ultimately, it is not up to me or Senate Republicans. It is up to Senate Democrats.”