Editorial: Berger’s reflexive social media blasts stifle dialogue

January 27, 2017 GMT

A CBC Editorial: Friday, Jan. 27, 2017; Editorial# 8116<br /> The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Make no mistake about it, when it comes to Gov. Roy Cooper, North Carolina state Senate boss Phil Berger is not about dialogue or compromise. He is reflexively about confrontation and rejection.

Don’t take our word for it. Take his. All you need to do it go to his Facebook page.

He has misrepresented the facts and the governor’s positions.

He described Cooper’s ’efforts to expand Medicaid to 500,000 eligible North Carolinians as “massive budget busting.” It isn’t even close.

Cooper had barely finished outlining his education priorities at a N.C. Public School Forum breakfast Wednesday when Berger took to Facebook and Twitter, accusing Cooper of saying things he didn’t say and offering up his own set of “alternative facts.”

He falsely represented Cooper’s position on taxes and exaggerated the status of average pay for teachers.

While it would certainly be appropriate to discuss and debate Cooper on what he DID say, it is just plain wrong to put words in his mouth that he neither said, meant or implied, and then attack him.

Berger said: “Reversing the tax cuts passed into law by Republican state leaders = a massive tax hike.”

Who said anything about “reversing tax cuts?” That is false and intentionally misleading. Cooper has been emphatic, saying he’s against changing the tax plan already in place.

Cooper simply said taxes are being cut enough. He neither said, nor hinted, at increasing taxes: “Do we continue corporate tax reductions, personal income tax reductions? Or are we going to say we’ve done enough, it’s time now to truly invest in education? Don’t cut the corporate tax again. Instead, raise teacher pay.”

Money for teacher pay increases needs to come from somewhere and Cooper is arguing it won’t be there if there are FURTHER tax cuts. Opposition to further tax cuts simply does not equal new taxes and Berger knows that.

When it comes to teacher pay, Berger goes beyond fast-and-loose and doesn’t give the whole picture: “Legislative Republicans have already provided public school teachers an average 15.5 percent pay raise since 2013.” Now, that’s accurate, sort of.

The reality is that since the Great Recession and teacher pay CUTS that Burger backed, the average salary increased only 6.3 percent. The most recent increases make the pay boost appear greater than they actually are. Think of taking two steps backward and one step forward.

The average teacher pay authorized by the legislature (not including local supplements—which the General Assembly has no role in) was CUT 5.4 percent from the 2008-09 school year ($42,496) until the 2013-14 school year ($40,189).

From that school year to now, the average annual pay increase authorized by the legislature, based on school teacher average pay, has been 5 percent (to an annual average of $43,166 for the 2014-15 school year up to an average $45,191 for the current 2016-17 school year).

Sen. Berger needs to remember that North Carolina voters support Medicaid expansion -- 63 percent -- and increased funding for public schools. Gov. Cooper did not run in a gerrymandered district. He ran statewide. He has not proposed a “massive tax hike” or “massive budget busting.”

Someone should take Berger’s phone away from him. Maybe he would then talk with the governor about his proposals and see what common ground might be found. It is what North Carolina citizens want and expect from their leaders. Sen. Berger knows that.