Richmond County Daily Journal
On Wednesday, Governor Pat McCrory submitted his recommended budget for 2013-2015 and some lawmakers are apprehensive about the cuts proposed.
The proposed $20.6 billion budget would eliminate funding for teacher assistants in second and third grade, reduce Local Education, LEA, funding by $26 million, cut over $100 million from the university system, increase college out-of-state tuition, cut reimbursement rates to rural hospitals for Medicaid and eliminate Golden LEAF funding.
“For too long, North Carolina’s state government has been broken, relying on short-term patches and fixes,” McCrory said in his transmittal letter.
McCrory said now is the time to fix and rebuild N.C. and transform the state government “….to better serve all of the people, and better enable them to provide for themselves and succeed as individuals, as families, as employers and employees and as citizens of our great state.”
He said that the state must accomplish these goals with the modest increase in state revenue of a little more than 3 percent. McCrory expects this to be done without a tax increase. “This recommended budget does not burden North Carolina families or businesses with any tax increases,” he said.
If passed, the budget will increase the State Repair and Renovation Fund by $300 million to rebuild the N.C. infrastructure. Teachers and state employees will get a 1-percent pay increase and $72 million will go into the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System.
“There is an additional $20 million Pay Adjustment Reserve for competitive pay increases and retention bonuses for key employees who are not receiving market wages and are in danger of being hired away,” the budget said.
Representative Garland Pierce, for the 48th District, said that some of the things in the budget he agrees with but not all.
Pierce does not agree with McCrory on cutting teacher assistant jobs. “At the end of the day, the students suffer. Especially those on the fringes of not being prepared to move on,” he said.
Pierce said that the budget that has been present “…is not a budget that will create jobs, it will cut jobs.” He said the budget will not benefit working families.
Representative Kenneth Goodman of Rockingham, for the 66th District, called the budget “…an attack on rural North Carolina.”
Goodman said overall, there are some good things in the budget but, “as far as Richmond County goes, there aren’t many good things in there for us.”
According to Goodman, the budget, “…claims to add 1,800 teacher jobs but, in reality, it will not do that because they eliminate all the funding for teacher assistants for second and third grade. In our system, we use that funding to hire classroom teachers. When that money goes away, the funding for teachers goes away…”
The 1-percent raise increase for teachers is inadequate, Goodman said. “I think that is just way under-budgeted,” he said.
Another repercussion from the budget would be the potential of the Richmond County Juvenile Detention Center closing. Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. said that if the center does close down, it would affect both the community and law enforcement.
He said that the deputies would have to drive as close as Winston-Salem, which is over an hour away, and as far as Dallas, which is almost two hours away. Clemmons pointed out that if a juvenile is arrested and must be taken to the center in Dallas, the juvenile would have to be transported to Dallas, picked up for a court date, brought back to Richmond County and then taken back to Dallas.
North Carolina State Senator Gene McLaurin said the potential of the center closing is a very big concern for him and he is going to gather some facts about the importance of the center and take them back to Raleigh with him.
McLaurin also echoed the thoughts of Goodman and Pierce about the budget having some good aspects and some bad. “Education and job creation has got be at the top of our priority list,” McLaurin said, “We have to address teacher pay, we’re losing teachers.”
He said he is particularly concerned about the elimination of the Golden LEAF Foundation and the extreme cuts to the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center. He pointed out both of those foundations have helped develop Richmond County in tremendous ways, naming the Perdue expansion, the Cascades Tissue Group and the Von Drehle Corporation.
McLaurin applauded McCrory for not proposing tax increases and said he is no opposed to increasing out-of-state college tuition. “The best thing is that we not raise taxes on citizens, particularly in these difficult economic times,” he said.
McLaurin also pointed out that he is not attacking the governor’s budget, but he said he feels like more can be done to help rural communities.
Goodman, Pierce and McLaurin pointed out that this budget is not the definite budget and must be voted on and passed by the North Carolina General Assembly. “We’ve got to work together and I’m confident that the House and the Senate will make changes to the budget and I hope we can continue to more North Carolina forward,” McLaurin said.
The goal of the N.C. legislature is to get the revised budget back to McCrory by mid-June and have the new budget take effect July 1.
— Staff Writer Laura Edington can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.