The Senate Appropriations Committee heard an hour of comments Tuesday morning – the only chance the public has had to weigh in on the Senate's proposed $20.2 billion spending plan.
The budget proposal was rolled out overnight Sunday and officially unveiled at a press conference Monday morning.
"I'd like to commend you for a grown-up budget the Senate has proposed that is fiscally responsible and that paves the way for more improvements in 2013," Becki Gray, vice president of outreach for the conservative John Locke Foundation, told lawmakers.
The Senate spending plan includes no tax or fee increases, but it does have some major differences from the House plan. Those differences include:
- No money to replace $258 million in federal EduJobs (Recovery Act) funds that will expire later this year. LEAs will have to find the money to make up for that gap elsewhere.
- Raises of 1.2 percent for state employees and teachers, though the $84 million set aside for teacher raises will, according to administrators, almost certainly be used to make up the EduJobs gap instead.
- No funding for Eugenics Compensation. The House budgeted about $11 million.
- $47 million set aside to fund Senate Leader Phil Berger's education reform initiative, modeled on a 2002 Florida program. Critics of the proposal point out that N.C. children currently outscore their Florida peers in several areas on national standardized tests.
- Ferry tolls are reinstated and made mandatory, with no exemption for Ocracoke/Hatteras and Knotts Island/Currituck, the two routes with no land-based alternative routes. The House put all the ferry tolls on hold for a year.
- Programs that reduce infant mortality rates have had their pass-through block grant funding nearly zeroed out. The House budget appropriates nearly $800,000 to those programs.
- No money for statewide tobacco use prevention and cessation programs. The House had $10 million, which was a substantial cut already.
- A 30 percent cut in teen pregnancy prevention funding.
Many of those offering comments Tuesday asked Senate budget-writers to reconsider some of their funding decisions, such as cutting money to tobacco prevention programs and omitting compensation for eugenics victims.
"Please don't give up on us. We try so hard every day to just help save a life from the devastation of tobacco," said Kristi Andrews, the widow of Justin Andrews, a lung cancer victim who appeared in television ads for Tobacco Reality Unfiltered. "Please don't give up on the next generation. We need the funding."
Mark Bold with the Justice for Sterilization Victims Project asked senators to follow the House's lead in providing money to eugenics victims.
"Providing relief to those citizens that this state has injured is the just and righteous thing to do. Time is running out," Bold told lawmakers.