Legislative leaders removed some of the guesswork for the legislative short session starting May 16 by announcing they agreed to a $23.917 billion spending plan for the 2018-19 state budget.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, held a teleconference with reporters Monday, May 7, to discuss a $356.7 million budget surplus this year. It is the state’s fourth consecutive revenue surplus. They said the robust revenue is due to Republicans’ pro-growth economic policies.

They said the proposed 2018-19 General Fund budget includes a projected $276.5 million surplus.

Teachers and state employees will receive a pay raise, Moore said during the teleconference. When Democrats were in the majority they cut education spending and enacted teacher furloughs. He said Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed budgets with teacher pay raises, and the General Assembly had to override his veto.

Berger and Moore pledged the House and Senate will keep their commitment to pass a fifth consecutive teacher pay raise while keeping taxes low on middle-class families and small businesses. Individual and corporate income taxes will drop next year.

“Teachers are getting paid more today than at any time in our state’s history,” Moore said, and education spending is at its highest.

The legislative leaders’ focus on the teacher pay raise comes as educators statewide plan to abandon classrooms and rally May 16 for higher wages.

Berger said teacher strikes are illegal in North Carolina, and the planned protests appear to be a work slowdown taxpayers do not support.

The goal is to pass the budget as quickly as possible so school districts can shore up their budgets for the upcoming year.

“We should have something to start voting on in early June,” Berger told reporters.

The policies adopted by Republican state leaders have helped create over half a million new jobs, and have resulted in North Carolina’s economy consistently being ranked as one of the fastest growing in the nation, the news release said.

Berger and Moore leveled some election-year shots in the news release and teleconference.

“Republicans inherited a $2.5 billion budget deficit from Gov. Roy Cooper’s Democratic Party in 2011,” the news release said.

Republicans have worked for years to strengthen North Carolina’s balance sheet and implement pro-growth economic policies, which are now resulting in a string of budget surpluses and a record rainy day fund, the news release said.

“We will maintain our proven approach to successfully keeping North Carolina on solid financial footing for the long-term benefit of our citizens and businesses,” Moore said in the news release. “North Carolinians can have confidence they live in a state that has secured a prosperous future for its rapidly growing population.”

Moore and Berger said lawmakers will continue to resist any calls from Cooper for what they termed a job-killing tax hike.

“We fully expect that when Gov. Cooper releases his proposed budget, he will propose a return to the Democrats’ failed economic policies of high taxes and irresponsible spending that left our state totally unprepared for the Great Recession,”Berger said.

“But legislative Republicans, unlike Gov. Cooper, have learned from the failure of Democrats’ liberal tax-and-spend economic schemes,” Berger said. “Last year our members passed a responsible plan that promised a generous teacher pay raise and lower taxes for working families — and this year we’ll work quickly and efficiently to build on those promises.”

Berger and Moore said the spending target “represents a responsible 3.85 percent annual growth rate for the state budget, which will increase spending on key state priorities by roughly $886 million and still allow millions of North Carolinians to keep more of their own earnings.”

Joe Coletti, John Locke Foundation senior fellow, said the $23.9 billion deal actually represents a 3.9 percent increase over last year’s $23.0 billion budgeted appropriations — still within the so-called TABOR limit combining inflation and population growth.

“It is $250 million more than in the budget originally passed for this year. Projected revenues for 2018-19 are higher than originally forecast last year, but $94 million of the extra spending (38 percent) comes from the projected end-of-year surplus for 2018-19.”