On June 5, 2019, at 7pm, people will gather at locations across the state to remember and honor those who have suffered or died because they were uninsured. This is a life and death situation for too many of us, and further delays are not acceptable. Please find a vigil near you and support efforts to close the Medicaid coverage gap and expand Medicaid NOW!

As promised, Senator Berger and his colleagues unveiled the Senate version of a NC budget on Tuesday morning. This is not the end of the budget process. Various appropriations committees will rubberstamp it with no more than minor changes, and it's likely to be approved by the Senate (which is inevitable) this week. A conference committee then will be formed to hash out the differences (aka horse trading) between the House and Senate versions before sending a final budget to Gov. Cooper, who may approve or veto it. It's supposed to take effect on June 30 🤣🤣🤣. WRAL.

While the total spending is the same in both budgets ($23.9 billion), the Senate has different priorities than the House.The Senate favors salary increases (5% over two years) for state workers over those for teachers (3.5% over two years). It's true state workers have been slammed, with miniscule raises in five of the last ten years, so they deserve a raise. Unless you're a retiree, evidently - then you get no cost of living increase from the Senate; the House would give you a small boost in 2020-2021. Teachers who have worked 15-25 years would get a whooping $500 annual bonus; if you've made it 25 years, you get $1000. And all teachers would get $300/year for classroom supplies (ask any teacher you know how far that will go). NC Policy Watch provides analysis on some the education-related budget items, with comparison to the House budget.

Anyone paying attention has to ask why we're not increasing pay for teachers AND state employees. OH, right - those tax cuts they've provided for corporations and the wealthiest among us. These tax cuts have "kept our state from addressing genuine economic challenges that public policy and public investment could make progress on in favor of a flawed economic theory that at worst exacerbates the challenges and undermines a pathway to better economic outcomes for all." Read A half dozen economic challenges that tax cuts at the top don't fix.

Other questionable or unacceptable items in the Senate budget:

  • Token increase of $250 in the standard NC tax deduction for married couples filing jointly - allows them to brag about cutting taxes. "Analysis shows that, of the total net tax cut from the increase in the standard deduction, 27 percent will actually go to the top 20 percent while just 7 percent will go to the bottom 20 percent, whose income leaves them in poverty each year." NC Policy Watch.
  • Further rollback in the state franchise tax on businesses; why that's a bad idea. More about why it's a bad idea.
  • Increased registration fees for hybrid/electric vehicles that the House ended up dropping from its budget.
  • Cuts $31 million previously set aside for incentives to lure TV/film productions back to NC - because why would we want to restore a lucrative industry we chased to GA a few years ago?
  • Funds to care for 1,000 people on the Intellectual/Developmental Disability Medicaid Program waitlist - INSTEAD of expanding Medicaid, which would cover ~500,000 North Carolinians, most of them working. It should and could be both, not either/or. AND Senator Berger continues to mis-characterize Medicaid expansion, saying it would dis-incentivize people to work. Most of the people who would benefit are WORKING - think farmers, clergy, small business owners, people working multiple jobs without benefits.
  • Moves the Dept of Health and Human Services from Raleigh to Granville County, which (like the DMV HQ move) would reduce staff (folks who don't want to move or drive further), increase traffic on already busy roads, and make it harder for DHHS staff to meet with legislators and others based in Raleigh. PLUS they have the major Medicaid privitization process starting this year.

It's not all bad news. Here are items (albeit small & mostly insufficent ones) we support:

  • Incentives to recruit top principals to low-performing schools: $30,000 a year over three years.
  • Funds to hire 100 sorely needed school psychologists. This is a bandage on a gaping wound, but it's something.
  • Includes funding to implement the crucial "Raise the Age" legislation passed earlier this year. Again, more would be better.
  • Commits $3 million in 2019-20 and whatever is needed after that to eliminate a backlog of rape evidence kits that need to be tested for DNA.
  • Spends $2.5 million on a monument at the State Capitol honoring the contributions of African-Americans to North Carolina. We'd like to see the Confederate Monuments come down and the Sons of Confederate Veterans no longer welcomed with open arms by NCGA Republicans.
  • $15 million each year for GREAT Program rural broadband grants. This is much needed!

More on the budget and source info for what's above from WRAL and the N&O.

From NC Policy Watch, five basic truths to remember this week about the state budget:

  • The budget is too small.
  • It is unfair and unjust.
  • The state's current approach isn't working.
  • The state is failing to prepare for the next recession.
  • The budget process is lousy.

Ideally, the state budget reflects our shared priorities and values and sets a path for ensuring that individuals, businesses, communities, and the environment all thrive. Let your NC legislators and Gov. Cooper know what you value! It may not make much difference this year, but we know what we have to do in 2020 to elect legislators who WILL enact a budget that reflects our progressive values: STAMP NC BLUE!


Tags: (NC Budget, NCGA, NC Pol, NCGOP, Medicaid Expansion)

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