Democrats and Republicans at odds over education investment vs. tax cuts

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RALEIGH, N.C. -- The North Carolina Republican Senate unveiled it's budget Tuesday and it's already made its way through a couple money-related committees including finance and appropriations.

The Senate budget does a number of things from splitting the Department of Public Safety and creating a Department of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice to giving the lieutenant governor his own detail.

The main focus between this and the governor's proposal is education spending and tax breaks.

The Senate's budget sits at $22.9 billion as opposed to Gov. Roy Cooper's at $23.4 billion, a 2.5 and 5.1 percent increase from this year respectively.

"We continue to lose ground compared to the rest of the country on making critical investments for our students," said President of the North Carolina Association of Educators Mark Jewell during a press conference calling for more education spending in Raleigh. "This is unacceptable and quite frankly, it’s embarrassing."

The NCAE and Democrats are happy with the governor's proposal, which includes twice as much money in total education spending, but North Carolina is not "losing ground" by any means when it comes to teacher pay. According to the NEA, the state has climbed to 35th in the country in average teacher pay, compared to 41st last year.

Still, education advocates want to see more per-pupil spending, and the governor calls for a larger investment. The Senate's proposal would give teachers an average raise of 3.7 percent and 9.5 percent total the next two years. The governor's proposal would give teachers slightly more over the next two years, with an average 5 percent raise this year and next.

The Senate Republican budget also calls for $1 billion in tax cuts.

"When we allow the 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," said Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger.

But Democrats say those tax cuts for millionaires would be 60 time larger than cuts for the middle class.

"If we didn’t have these tax cuts for millionaires, where would that money go?" said Senator Jay Chaudhuri, a Wake County Democrat. "Well I think the Democratic position would be that we could put that money into fully funding all those families that are on the waiting list for pre-K education, we could also provide free community college."

The GOP budget also puts an extra $363 million into the state's rainy day fund. Both proposals give hundreds of millions towards Hurricane Matthew relief.