Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper wants North Carolina business leaders to speak up for public education funding by telling the Republican-controlled legislature to block additional income tax cuts set to take effect next year.

Cooper gave the challenge Monday at the annual Emerging Issues Forum in Raleigh. The conference is focusing on how to expand early childhood education and health care and their connection to a well-trained future workforce.

Cooper says individual and corporate tax rates have been previously reduced, and further cuts could create future budget shortfalls. He says the business community needs to use its “political capital” to ensure there’s enough revenue for pre-kindergarten programs, teacher pay raises and community college and university system improvements.

Former Gov. Jim Hunt helped assemble the first forum in the 1980s.