The North Carolina House of Representatives approved a $21.1 billion budget Friday by a vote of 77-to-35.
The plan includes an allocation for five percent teacher pay raises, to be paid for by education lottery revenues.
Representative Mickey Michaux of Durham District 31 pushed an amendment for an additional $102 million to bring teacher pay raises up to 7.4 percent, but that move was blocked by Republicans.
Rep. Verla Insko, a Democrat from Orange County District 56, says she could not vote for the budget, even though she says it’s preferable to what she called the “Draconian” Senate budget.
“Well, it’s certainly better than the Senate budget, but that’s really the wrong comparison to make,” Insko said. “We are so far in the hole with so many programs, especially education, that what we really need to compare it to is what we should be doing at this time.”
Insko told WCHL that Republican majority made a big mistake by passing what she called “a huge tax cut at the first opportunity they had.”
“They just took so much money out of our revenue stream that they had no option but to cut essential services,” said Insko. “And they really seem to almost target public education.”
She added that the House plan is better than the Senate’s for a few reasons. There are no cuts to teacher assistant jobs, for instance.
“The House budget didn’t cut school nurses, for example, which is a big improvement” said Insko. “The House budget didn’t cut seniors out of adult care homes, or disabled kids out of group homes and adult care homes.”
Insko said that because the House budget is better than the Senate budget, there was pressure on Democrats to vote for it, and some of them did.
She said that her constituents, however, are not happy with the budget, particularly for the way she said it “undermines” the University of North Carolina.
The House budget directs UNC to find $19.8 million in additional savings.
Like the Senate, the House wants to move the State Bureau of Investigation from the Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Roy Cooper, to the Department of Public Safety, overseen by Governor Pat McCrory.
That sends off alarm bells in the Democratic minority – and Insko hears them, too.
“That actually compromises, I think, the ability of our SBI to be independent,” she said. “I think it will politicize it.”
UNC President Tom Ross released a statement Friday praising the House plan for offering “strong and positive support for some key University priorities. Importantly, the proposed budget funds salary increases for all state workers, including University faculty and staff, and makes targeted investments in some research areas highlighted in our strategic plan.”