The House of Representatives passed the budget this week. Although there are positive things I like about this budget, I feel it fails to meet many of the needs of our state, particularly in the area of education.
I did not support this plan because it fails to reverse the deep, damaging and unnecessary cuts made to our budget last year. This budget does not replace any of the 3,000 classroom educators fired last year. It does not put any more textbooks into our schools or give a single pencil more to any students. The funding for need-based financial aid for middle-class college students remains $35 million less than it had been and about 9,500 students have been cut out of the program. The state’s pre-kindergarten programs have been forced to cut space for thousands of deserving children who will never get a chance again for a preschool education. They will start out behind their peers and have a lot of work ahead of them to catch up. Also, unlike the governor’s budget, the House budget fails to provide a pay raise for teachers and state employees and instead gives them a $250 one-time bonus.
In the past year, North Carolina’s unemployment rate has continued to lag behind the rest of the country and we are falling farther behind. After a year of steady decline, our unemployment rate is now the 47th worst in the nation.
House Democrats proposed several amendments that would have improved the budget bill (H950). The majority rejected them nearly unanimously.
They voted against:
• Adding hundreds of teachers to our state’s classrooms
• Health care and cancer screenings for women
• Funding for the community college system’s Military Business Center
• Protecting a new $7 million youth detention center that is now being closed, wasting taxpayer money and eliminating 57 jobs in an already high-unemployment area
• Protecting children from Internet predators
• Expanding law enforcement’s ability to fight methamphetamine abuse
• Preserving cost-effective drug treatment courts
• Helping Alzheimer’s patients who need in-home health care, saving the state from paying for expensive residential treatment
• Teen-pregnancy prevention programs
• Efforts to reduce the state’s infant mortality rate
• Smoking cessation programs that decrease long-term health costs
The plan also had several fiscal shortcomings. It diverted millions of dollars from a national settlement with the states intended to help struggling homeowners; raided the state Highway Fund to support other projects instead of paying for road improvements; and most problematically pulled $62 million out of the state’s pension and retirement fund to help balance the budget. State employees and teachers deserve better than to have their retirement fund used as a piggy bank.
This budget does not reflect the priorities of most of the people of North Carolina and fails to move the state forward. I am proud to have opposed it. I am also providing some information below about legislation regarding air pollution and gambling on Cherokee tribal land.
Thank you as always for your interest in state government. Please let me know if I can ever be of help to you.
I voted this week to cap the state gas tax and to delay the imposition of tolls for the state’s ferries. The two measures will save taxpayers more than $60 million. (H142)
New air pollution rules would exempt from state regulation any emission covered by federal guidelines. Industry groups say the legislation would save money and reduce overlapping state and federal regulations, but critics say the bill (H952) would replace state standards that evaluate the impact of toxic emissions on human health with weaker federal rules.
The General Assembly has approved legislation that will allow live dealers at the casino on Cherokee tribal land. Proponents of the bill (S582) say that the change will create 400 jobs in western North Carolina and increase investment in the area. Opponents argue that the bill will bring more gambling to the region by allowing casinos at new sites. The state will receive a small percentage of the revenue generated by live gaming.
Please feel free to contact me when you have questions or concerns pertaining to Legislative matters.
Room 1111 – Legislative Building
16 W. Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
Please remember that you can listen to each day’s session, committee meetings and press conferences on the General Assembly’s website at www.ncleg.net. Once on the site, select “Audio,” and then make your selection – House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room or Press Conference Room.