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Take Action Against the Pending State Budget

Jeremy Sprinkle
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The Proposed G.O.P. Budget is Just Plain Awful. And Hurtful.

On Thursday afternoon, the North Carolina Senate voted 31-17 along party lines to send the 19.7 billion spending plan to the House. G.O.P. lawmakers are calling it a negotiated compromise with the House, which is expected to vote on it today and tomorrow, where it will reach Governor Perdue’s desk by Saturday.

This G.O.P. state budget proposal will seriously undermine and destroy the things that make North Carolina a great state and the envy of the Southeast. Let us be clear, this budget proposal is beyond terrible. It will do serious harm to many of the services and institutions we rely on, such as public education, essential health and human services, public safety, and environmental agencies, all while costing the state tens of thousands of jobs in the next two years. At a time of struggle and sacrifice for so many North Carolinians, this will only make matters much worse.

This budget is an outright vicious attack on education and the great public school system here in North Carolina. Some facts about the Republican vision for our education system; this budget cuts $257 million more from education overall than Perdue recommended, with $124 million in additional cuts that lawmakers are forcing local schools to make. Last year, more than 88% of discretionary cuts resulted in job loss. Pink slips have already started going out across the state to school personnel, and education officials have estimated that 9,000 jobs will be lost in K-12, as a result of this budget passing.

K-12 schools in our state face staggering challenges if this budget passes. Some obstacles to overcome will include; a $92 million reduction in funding for new textbooks, the elimination of the Dropout Prevention Grant program, the elimination of funds for the student diagnostic pilot program, a 46% reduction in funds for instructional supplies, the elimination of mentoring funds for school districts, a 20% reduction in funding for the More at Four prekindergarten program, and the elimination of state funding for the Teacher Academy, that trains our children’s teachers.

This budget will also seriously undermine our stellar public universities and community colleges by dramatically reducing the affordability and quality of these systems. It could result in as many as 12,000 jobs lost in these systems and cuts funding for basic skills education and increasing tuition for residents and non-residents. In the UNC system, it would cut the state subsidy to UNC hospitals by 59% and cut funding for grants and scholarships to in-state students as well as cut subsidizes for out-of-state students.

Click here to hear Gov. Perdue talk about the fight to keep our quality education.

Health and human services are another area that this budget will negatively affect, balanced on the backs of yet another vulnerable population. It would cut billions out of essential health care programs such as Medicaid, result in significant damage to mental health services, and hampers the progress made towards reducing obesity and smoking by eliminating the Health and Wellness Trust Fund.

Some of the specific cuts that would be made include; a 20% reduction in funding to Smart Start, the elimination of 250 positions within the Dept. of Health and Human Services, modifying optional and mandatory Medicaid services, and the elimination of automatic inflationary increases for Medicaid provider reimbursements. It would slash $750 million from Medicaid over the next two years which means a loss to the state of roughly $2 billion when you add in the loss of federal money the cuts cause.

This budget proposal will also slash millions out of our public safety institutions and community-based programs, and restrict access to the courts through regressive fees. In addition, it also threatens our natural places and basic infrastructure such as roads, rail, water, and sewer by nearly eliminating the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, dismantling DENR, and limiting environmental regulations to minimal federal requirements.

Told you it was bad.

Click here for a more comprehensive look at all of the cuts that will take place.

The most frustrating and shocking part of all is that these cuts would be mitigated, if not completely restored, if lawmakers chose the simple solution: maintaining our current tax rates. The penny-sales tax would cover these cuts, but the G.O.P. lawmakers are cashing in on their campaign promise.

This is expected to be on Gov. Perdue’s desk over the weekend. She is expected to veto it, but it may not matter. Even if she does veto it, it’s all up to five House Democrats who are siding with the Republican majority by selling their votes for things like bridges and prisons in their home counties, a promise not to toll a local ferry, or a slightly better district when the new lines are drawn. These five House Democrats hold the next two years of North Carolina with their vote. We need to send them a strong message if Governor Perdue does veto it.

Contact these five lawmakers with any of the messages below:

1. Rep. William Brisson: 919.733.5772 or 910.862.7007
2. Rep. Jim Crawford: 919.733.5824 or 252.492.0185
3. Rep. Dewey Hill: 919.733.5830 or 910.642.6044
4. Rep. Bill Owens: 919.733.0010 or 252.335.0167
5. Rep. Tim Spear: 919.715.3029 or 252.797.4481

“Tell them to quit holding North Carolina back and ask them to stand with the Governor!” (if she vetoes the budget)

“Tell them you want them to chart a path to economic recovery that will not be decided by reducing the systems, structures, and personnel that make these institutions great!”

“Stand up and tell them you believe in North Carolina’s future, education, health care, clean water, and safe communities!”

Remember, we here in North Carolina are under similar attacks launched by corporate backed interests seen across the country. Many state legislatures are trying to fundamentally destroy the middle class. We must come together to realize that WE ARE ONE and the G.O.P. agenda will not be tolerated. To see the lengths that state governments are willing to go, click here and try to tell the difference between fact and fiction.