Editorial: Still time to fix state budget into one that helps all North Carolinians
Posted June 16
A CBC Editorial: Friday, June 16, 2017; Editorial # 8174
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
Word is that the remaining differences – whatever they might be -- between the N.C. House of Representatives and Senate over the state budget are being worked out by the legislature’s top-most leaders.
Sometime early next week the rest of us – including much of the General Assembly – will be clued into just how they intend to spend our money.
However, before they wrap things up, lawmakers still have the chance to correct their course on some misguided proposals remaining on the table as well as to incorporate some needs that have been ignored or forgotten.
First, stop giving the state’s revenue to people who don’t need it.
Continued cuts in the corporate income tax are unnecessary and jeopardize the ability of state government to meet the most basic needs of citizens. Budgets passed by the House and Senate don’t even keep up with inflation or the state’s growing population. Most spending levels remains below what it was before the recession a decade ago. Fully fund the state’s needs now.
Reverse the foolish neglect of public education. It’s no mystery what needs to be done: Move significantly closer to the national average, and not the basement, in teacher and school principal pay; Fully-fund pre-k education for all eligible children; properly fund the kindergarten through third grade class-size reduction mandate so NO teachers – including those who teach art, music, physical education and language arts – are removed; Provide adequate funds for textbooks and classroom technology; Institute significant accountability and transparency in the private school voucher program.
Take care of those in need. Reject spiteful cuts to important education programs that help disadvantaged students in the eastern part of the state; Discard mean-spirited cuts to food stamps – that would throw 133,000 people – children and the elderly included – off the program while not saving the state a dime. Funding is also needed for the “raise-the-age” initiative to support the added workload in the juvenile court system. Expand Medicaid health coverage to the 500,000 who are not covered that would be largely federally-funded.
Provide meaningful support for economic growth by: Funding broadband connectivity in rural and under-served areas at the $20 million level recommended by the governor; Fully-funding the One N.C. Job Development Investment grants; Reviving the motion picture tax credits; Supporting sustainable and renewable energy by fully-funding the research centers at Appalachian State, North Carolina A&T and N.C. State universities; Restoring the tax credits for renewable energy development and, Burying the Senate’s Luddite-like effort to impose a three-year ban on wind energy facilities.
There’s no mystery to writing a budget that meets the needs of North Carolinians: Support a quality public education; Provide for the public’s safety, including a clean environment; Promote a good quality of life that includes opportunities for good jobs, recreational and cultural opportunities and a sound infrastructure that enables people to conduct business efficiently and conveniently.
Legislative leaders need to take a good, hard look at the budget to see if it meets those basic criteria.
If not, go back to work to fix it. If the legislature fails in its responsibility, Gov. Roy Cooper should veto the budget and demand one that benefits all North Carolinians, not just an empowered, privileged few.