RALEIGH - Leading Senate Republicans on Tuesday announced the highlights of their upcoming budget proposal, touting a modest spending increase plus a major tax cut.
"Our philosophy is that the budget should only grow by a certain amount even if you have additional money available," Senate President Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) asserted at a news conference. "When we allow taxpayers to keep more of their money, they put that money to use in the economy as opposed to sending it to Raleigh for the government to spend."
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The government will spend - last year's budget totaled $22.34 billion. According to Berger, the Senate GOP proposal pitches a budget of $22.9 billion, an increase of 2.5 percent.
Among the highlights announced:
- $600 million more for public education over two years
- Average 3.7 percent raise this year and 9.5 percent raise over two years
- $150 million in Hurricane Matthew relief
- $363 million allocated to the state's rainy day fund
Also in the proposal, a tax cut of up to $1 billion by lowering the personal income tax rate from 5.499 percent to 5.35 percent in 2018, and by increasing deductions. The proposal also slashes the corporate income tax rate from 3 percent to 2.75 percent in 2018 and to 2.5 percent in 2019.
MORE: Senate budget grows less than Cooper proposal
"I commend my Senate colleagues for crafting a balanced budget that delivers nearly $1 billion in tax relief to the middle class and our state's job creators, ensures 99 percent of taxpayers pay less or no state income tax, increases teacher pay, generously funds our public schools and helps rebuild communities devastated by Hurricane Matthew - all while saving for a future rainy day," Berger wrote in a statement.
By contrast, Gov. Roy Cooper's budget proposal totaled $23.6 billion, a spending increase of 5.1 percent.
"It's good that some of the Governor's proposals on teacher pay and other issues are reflected in the Senate budget, but we will reserve judgment until we see the details," Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said in a statement sent to ABC11. "Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have prioritized yet another massive tax giveaway for corporations and the wealthiest that would give millionaires a tax cut 60 times larger than middle-class families. Their plan blows a $600 million hole in our budget, which wrecks our ability to invest in education, disaster recovery and other priorities. Those are not the right priorities for our state."
The full budget proposal is expected to be released late Tuesday.