North Carolina recently passed the “Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0” with Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature, but it is clear from what happened that the governor did not so much approve of the budget and that he begrudgingly signed it. As JLF’s Joe Coletti writes in his research brief this week:
Just before Labor Day, Gov. Roy Cooper signed the final bill appropriating money from North Carolina’s $3.6 billion share of the Coronavirus Trust Fund. He was clearly under duress. A veto of the bill that passed with large bipartisan majorities would surely have been overridden.
The budget recommendation that Gov. Cooper released prior to this bill looked very different from what the governor ended up signing, Coletti writes:
Cooper had offered his spending recommendations for the remaining federal money a week earlier. He also suggested spending the entire $1.5 billion of unreserved fund balance to cover planned appropriations and another billion dollars in new appropriations, plus expanding Medicaid while ignoring the “woodwork” potential for those already eligible to sign up, and taking on $5.3 billion in debt. Such recklessly unrealistic spending would take your breath away if the length of the last sentence had not.
One of the most obvious areas of difference is education. Coletti explains:
Education funding marked the sharpest disagreement and the strongest rebuke to Cooper’s priorities. Where the governor had proposed bonuses for teachers to make up for the pay raises he vetoed last year, the General Assembly provided families with $335 to offset the expense of adapting to online education, something for which schools had already received millions of dollars.
More pointedly, the General Assembly expanded funding and eligibility for Opportunity Scholarships and education savings accounts to help poor families pay for private school and students with disabilities receive programming impossible to provide online. Cooper had sought to limit the scholarships to those already receiving them, even though more low-income parents have sought private schools so their children could benefit from in-person instruction.