Raleigh, N.C. — Legislative Democrats say Gov. Pat McCrory's $20.6 billion budget proposal is a flop when it comes to jobs, schools and rural communities.
"It does nothing to create jobs and grow our economy, and at the same time, it continues to cut education," House Minority Leader Larry Hall said at a midday news conference.
Hall blasted the governor's proposal to cut $117 million in funding for teaching assistants in second and third grades and $142 million from the University of North Carolina system, while spending $52 million to repeal the estate tax, which currently applies to only the 23 wealthiest estates in North Carolina.
"This budget is really a smokescreen for an assault on the middle-class," said Hall, D-Durham. "Balancing this tax break on the backs of our working families is not the way to go forward in North Carolina."
Democrats also voiced concerns about proposed cuts to the Rural Center, which would lose more than half of its funding, and to Golden LEAF, which would lose $65 million dollars – its entire annual payout from the national tobacco litigation settlement.
Both programs are aimed at promoting economic development and infrastructure in the state's rural areas.
Proposed cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals would also hit rural areas hard, as would cuts to community colleges and the closure of five prisons statewide, eliminating nearly 700 jobs.
"This budget eliminates jobs in North Carolina and cuts resources," said Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt. "They need to replace those jobs with economic development."
"I don't see where he's putting anything back. I don't see a job creation plan in here," said Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.
Nesbitt also pointed out that the governor's budget makes permanent the $400 million in "negative reserve" cuts to public schools while adding even more cuts on top of them.
"The cuts are much deeper than they appear on the surface," he cautioned.
He said it's ironic that the state just shelled out more than $90 million to bring MetLife jobs to Cary and Charlotte, while the governor's plan would cut $75 million for rural job creation.
Meanwhile, the state's unemployment rate ticked upward last month to 9.5 percent, well above the national average of 7.9 percent.
"This happened under the Republican-controlled legislature," Nesbitt said. "What we've got to do is stop all the one-liners and figure out why we're going backward on job creation in this state."