Summertime .... when kids head off to summer camp and our state legislators head back to Raleigh for the short legislative session. And just like summer camp, the legislative session will be full of adventure this year. While the kids battle mosquitoes and ticks, our state's legislators will be facing a pesky problem of their own - a serious state budget crisis. We as parents are well aware of the risks that ticks pose to our kids' health, but you might not be aware of the real threat potential budget cuts pose to the health and futures of North Carolina's children.
Before the recession in 2008, the state was spending $22 billion per year on services. To maintain service at these levels, we would need to spend $23 billion this year. Unfortunately, only $19 billion is available right now. To put this in perspective, abolishing the entire UNC system and all of the community college system would only cut $3.3 billion.
This means that legislators are going to have to make some very difficult decisions about what to cut on top of the significant cuts they already made last year.
Among the items funded in the state budget are a number of programs that provide an essential foundation for our state’s children and their futures. These include:
- early education programs like Smart Start and More at Four that prepare children to succeed in school and life;
- children’s health programs, like NC Health Choice, a program which provides health insurance for kids whose families make between 100 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty line for which almost 100,000 N.C. kids are eligible but can’t get in because of enrollment caps, and the universal vaccine program, which makes sure all children can receive basic vaccinations that keep them and the public safe;
- infant mortality reduction programs, like the Safe Sleep and folic acid campaigns, which have made great progress since the late 1990s when the state was among the worst states in the country for infant mortality but which are endangered following large cuts in last year’s budget; and
- critical child care subsidies for low income children that allow parents to go to work and support their families knowing that their children are cared for and safe.
When kids head off to camp the most important thing they can take with them - even more important than sunscreen or bug spray - is the knowledge that we are thinking about them and that the people at home care what they are doing. Cards and calls while they're away mean a lot.
In a strange way, the same is true for our state legislators. They need to hear from those of us in their home districts about what's important to us and what we don't want to see cut. Emails and calls to local legislators can make all the difference. To follow what's going on with the state budget and find out when to take action, sign up and join us at www.momsrising.org. Together we can stand up for our kids' future!
Beth is the mom of two in Durham and a member of the North Carolina chapter of MomsRising.