Budget wars between the Senate and House and Governor continue during the short session, as they have for weeks. The official point of the short session is to revise the second year of the two-year budget that lawmakers passed in 2013. However, they are already late – the new fiscal year began on July 1, but NC still doesn’t have a budget. The House wanted to continue working on Friday, 7/11/14, but the Senate refused. So instead, the House made their case to reporters on Friday morning, including about the potential of going home without a new budget agreement!!
The budget meetings have been quite dramatic, including the Senate Republicans walking out on teachers and administrators who were invited by the House to talk about how schools and teachers depend on Teacher Assistants (7/9/14). Fannie Flono of the Charlotte Observer talks about ‘the Show at the NC Legislature’ at http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/07/10/5036686/the-show-at-the-nc-legislature.html#.U8Quuq1OXcs
Basically, our representatives must face the shortfalls that they **created** by giving away a net $525 million in tax breaks to the wealthy and to profitable corporations. This fiscal year, they planned to cut tax income even more.
As the N&O wrote in “It’s time to rethink NC tax cuts,” (7/5/14) “As North Carolina lawmakers struggle to agree on the second year of the state budget, it’s becoming clear that last year’s decision to cut taxes came too early and went too far. The state compressed its three-level personal income tax rates of 6, 7 and 7.75 percent to a flat 5.8 percent and reduced the corporate tax rate from 6.5 to 6 percent. “
The N&O also wrote, “Had the Republican-led General Assembly held off on these cuts, North Carolina would be enjoying a budget surplus now. There would be money to increase teacher pay without cutting education elsewhere. There would be money to invest in the University of North Carolina and in the state’s neglected roads, bridges and water systems. And there would be money for modest, well-targeted tax cuts. “
And this fiscal year, it will only get worse. The state’s income tax is planned to drop to 5.75 percent, and the corporate tax will drop to 5 percent. Only making everything worse. Read the N&O’s rething tax cuts article at http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/05/3986821/its-time-to-rethink-nc-tax-cuts.html#storylink=cpy
And not only Teacher Assistants were targetted, but also, elderly people, disabled, and young chidlren. The NC Senate budget planned to remove many elderly, blind and disabled from Medicaid, and both the House and Senate talked about cutting funding for after school programs for children ages 6-12. These plans are incredibly callous and not well considered. On the one hand the state is taxing the working poor more (and starting at $19,400 vs $23,400, according to the Budget and Tax Center), forcing parents to work more, they plan to throw children out of after school programs. Cutting these programs also cuts jobs for those tutors and caretakers.
It has been really interesting to hear the conservative representatives making reasonable points sometimes. NC Policy Watch summarized this as follows, “Budget conferees change their rhetoric on the role of government, but not the underlying policies that undermine it” in ‘Lawmakers try to have it both ways,” at http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/07/10/lawmakers-try-to-have-it-both-ways/
For example, Senator Neal Hunt claims “that rapid expansion of “welfare” spending is the chief problem that’s holding back the state budget” and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Nelson Dollar refuted this, saying something incredible. Dollar said, “I don’t see any big welfare line item in this budget. Medicaid spends billions on mental health, pregnant women, people who have diabetes, or cancer or heart disease. I don’t see those things as welfare. I see those as treating our fellow 1.6, 1.7 million citizens of our state in a very humane way….Do we help those who cannot help themselves?”
But still, they don’t admit their part in causing the problem. As the article says, “Most notable in this regard is the failure of legislative leaders to acknowledge the devastating impact of the unnecessary and destructive tax cuts they enacted last year.”
Another basic problem was never resolved between the Senate, House and Governor’s budgets. Lawmakers never agreed on basic numbers about the state’s projected revenues and the costs of Medicaid even as they tried to find money to meet basic needs of our state’s citizens.
On the other hand, every day the NCGA continue the session costs $50,000, which is more than the average annual teacher’s salary.