This afternoon's scheduled budget debate in the House is likely to be long and contentious, according to Democrats who previewed their arguments this morning.
Republican House leaders say their $20.3B spending plan prioritizes education. K-12 gets about $250M more than last year's plan. Most of that money backfills federal EduJobs funding that expires this year. The plan also avoids an additional $74M discretionary cut scheduled for the coming school year.
At a press conference, Democrats said avoiding further damage isn't enough. They say the GOP should seek to repair last year's deep cuts.
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said last year's cuts by GOP leaders laid off "almost a thousand teachers, 2500 teacher assistants, and 4000-5000 educators overall."
"This budget replaces not a one of them," Glazier said.
Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Haywood, pointed out that the proposal does not include $17.5 million needed to cover enrollment growth in the UNC system. "It essentially caps that for the year and limits middle class access to higher education," he added.
"The Republicans had an opportunity to make a longterm commitment to our children in public education with this budget. They have very much failed to do so," said Minority Leader Joe Hackney. "They talk about priorities - their priorities are not the children of middle-class families, that's for sure."
Asked where Democrats would find the money they say is needed to repair budget cuts, Hackney avoided mention of the 3/4 cent sales tax increase championed by Gov. Bev Perdue, saying only that it's the job of GOP leaders to find the necessary funding.
"There's already been a strong signal from the other side they're not going to look for other ways to meet the needs of our children," he said. "They say they are meeting the needs of the children of this state. They are not. They are failing to do so."
Hackney said Democrats would take issue with other areas of the budget during the floor debate, scheduled to start at 1:00pm. Some 45 amendments have reportedly been filed already.
You can watch live video from the floor here on WRAL.com.