Join the NC Justice Center for a very special and timely Crucial Conversation luncheon: The state budget impasse: Where do things stand? Where do we go from here? Thursday, August 8 at 12:00 pm, Junior League of Raleigh Center for Community Leadership, 711 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27603. Join us as a panel of experts including N.C. Budget & Tax Center Director Alexandra Sirota explains the specifics of what’s at issue, what’s at stake and what the future holds. Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m. Space is limited – preregistration required. The cost is $10 online, $15 at the door -- admission includes a box lunch -- scholarships available.

The Budget

The event above is a good introduction to today's topic. According to NC Policy Watch,

North Carolina’s new fiscal year got underway on July 1, but state  leaders have still yet to agree on a new budget. Gov. Roy Cooper wants  to negotiate with Republican legislative leaders over dozens of items  and find a middle ground between their competing proposals, but thus  far, his requests to sit down and talk have been rebuffed.
A key divide between the two sides: Medicaid expansion. Cooper wants  North Carolina to follow the lead of 37 other states and extend  federally funded health insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of  people who remain stuck in the coverage gap. Republican legislative  leaders say it would cost too much and help people who they feel are unworthy.

As of Friday, the Winston-Salem Journal posted that the "House GOP leadership delays vote on state budget veto override for 11th consecutive session," and that "the next opportunity for a floor vote will come Monday (tonight) night, which would represent Day 32 of the stalemate." Click the link above to read more about Governor Cooper's willingness "to accept  key elements of the Republican budget, such as supporting all the  special local projects that Republican leaders have been promoting to  entice Democratic legislators to support a veto override," his counterproposal on the budget and the ability to pay for the "special projects by eliminating the next round of corporate tax-rate cuts, slated to go from 3% to 2.5%."

Read more about how the NCGA budget has millions in earmarks for parks, water infrastructure in mostly Republican districts.

Find out more about why the News and Observer asks the question, Is NC’s budget fight showing cracks in Phil Berger’s power? including how Governor Cooper has

the moral high ground in pushing to give hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians access to affordable health care. According to polls, Medicaid expansion is favored by more than 60 percent of the public and almost 80 percent of Republicans would support expansion if it included a work requirement. Cooper has the backing of the huge health care industry and corporate leaders. He has the example of 36 states that have expanded Medicaid, including ones controlled by Republicans. And finally, he has the facts on his side. Studies show Medicaid expansion would create thousands of jobs, boost rural hospitals and improve the well-being on North Carolinians.

With the majority of North Carolinians favoring Medicaid expansion, and data to support why this is best, this brings us to my original question, who are our elected officials working for? It looks like Governor Cooper is working for the people of NC. However, it looks like Senator Berger is looking out for special interests.

Call to Action: Keep contacting your legislators to tell them to pass this budget and move forward with Medicaid expansion. Be sure to contact Senator Berger and Representative Moore.

More on healthcare, specifically the State Health Plan

Read more here from the News and Observer article about State Treasurer Folwell's Clear Pricing Project and how it could negatively affect 720,000 state employees, teachers and retirees because many healthcare providers will no longer be in-network beginning in January 2020. Furthermore, see Educated Policy's "Brief History of NC's Attempts to Reduce Membership into [the] North Carolina State Health Plan" with more information here.

So it looks like Treasurer Folwell is attempting to cut costs, but one of the major flaws is his inability to see how this affects real people. Read more here about his uncomfortable encounter with teachers on Education Matters. So where is the NCGA in all of this mess? Seems like they've been looking out for the wealthiest again.

For FY 2017, the State Controller’s Annual Financial Report listed the State Health Plan would need $2.65 billion to keep pace with liabilities, but received $2.26 billion in state funding.  There are three ways to address such a deficit: increase revenue, cut costs, or both.
Since 2013, the NC General Assembly has turned away $2.8 billion each year by cutting corporate income taxes in half and personal income tax cuts that gave wealthier residents the largest breaks.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported

House Bill 184, which would block Folwell’s initiative for at least a year in favor of a legislative study report, cleared the N.C. House by a 75-36 vote April 3. It has yet to be acted upon in the N.C. Senate  since being sent to the Rules and Operations Committee April 4. Senate  leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, has signaled he has no desire to take  up HB184.

And we are back to Senator Berger again. He is really showing lack of interest in keeping North Carolinian's healthy. Read more from Caffeinated Rage here.

Call to Action:

1- Contact the State Treasurer's Office (919-814-3800) and ask what is happening with the state health plan. Tell them that it looks like they are trying to get state employees, teachers and retirees to leave the state health plan and you want to know why.

2- Contact your legislators. Tell them that you are tired of critical areas being cut like health care when major tax breaks are given to the wealthiest and to corporations. Be sure to contact Senator Berger also.

#MarkJohnsonDebacle

Last week, we explained how parents were demanding an investigation into the #MarkJohnsonDebacle. (Read here.) Since then some members of the NCGA let us know they were listening. First Rep. Graig Meyer filed an amendment to SB 438 which passed the House and would allow local district decisions for K-3 reading assessment tools. The Senate did not concur so it will co to conference. Then,

Thirteen North Carolina state senators [called] on Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger to investigate the process Superintendent Mark Johnson followed in unilaterally awarding the multi-million dollar contract for a K-3  reading assessment to Istation.

In a letter sent to Senator  Berger today, the lawmakers request that Berger “establish a Select  Senate Committee to review the procurement process for the contract.”   The senators are further asking that Berger delay implementation of the  new K-3 reading assessment for a year.

We are still waiting for Phil Berger's response. Meanwhile, parents continue to advocate.

Then on Friday, NC Superintendent cites leaked text message  criticizing his failed attempt to influence assessment outcome as reason for cancelling contract process. (You have to read this one. It is unbelievable!) Read more here from Caffeinated Rage.

Call to Action:

1- Contact Phil Berger. Request that he honor the 13 senators' request to review the procurement process for the K-3 reading assessment contract and delay the implementation of the new reading assessment for a year. We can't wait to hear his response. :)

2 - If you haven't already, submit an  (anonymous) inquiry to State Auditor Beth Wood. https://www.ncauditor.net/pub42/Hotline.aspx Then contact your General Assembly members and ask for a #FullInvestigation into the #MarkJohnsonDebacle.

3- Thank Rep. Meyer, the representatives that voted to pass the amendment and the senators who are listening to our cries of outrage. We know at least some elected officials are working for our NC children.

Tags: (Education, Medicaid Expansion, State Health Plan, Istation, State Superintendent, Phil Berger)

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