The House budget proposal, H200, won approval today from the House Appropriations committee after a marathon nine-hour session during which more than 100 amendments were filed.
Some cuts and provisions were moderated. Committee members passed amendments putting back money for sentencing services, minority economic development, and environmental education.
- Rep. Tim Spear, D-Chowan, managed to get the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry exempted from the toll requirement, which made folks on Ocracoke very happy.
- Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, restored 20 chaplains to the Department of Corrections for “close custody” prisoners who wouldn’t have been allowed to meet with volunteers.
- Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, took money from the Affordable Housing Fund to re-fund arts programs, museums, and historical sites.
- Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, won funding for the DPI’s Positive Behavior Support Program to keep students in school.
But committee Democrats, outnumbered by a healthy margin, lost the vote on most of their major issues.
Dems tried twice to restore state and federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, called the provision banning it “discrimination against a specifically named organization.”
“We just don’t like this agency,” Insko said. “But this agency provides family planning services and primary care. They served 25,000 women last year, and they serve men too. This is one of our safety net providers, and there’s no reason to make this cut.”
But Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, opposed the amendments. “This organization has particularly unsavory origins in the eugenics movement” through its founder Margaret Sanger, he argued, saying other organizations could fill the need. Both amendments failed on mostly party lines.
Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Madison, tried to eliminate proposed cuts to drivers education, which schools could choose to offset with a fee as high as 75 dollars per student. “Most school systems I’ve talked to have estimated that this would not be a cost they could pass on to their students.”
In rural areas, it could cause a big problem, Rapp said. “This is the way to get to work, this is the way to get to school. Having a license is important.”
Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, also argued for the change. “What you’re doing is saying to poor kids who frequently need cars to get to work that they’re going to have to pay 75 dollars for that privilege.”
Martin added that the proposed budget also cuts funding for the public transit students without licenses would have to use as an alternative. “We’re sticking it to ‘em two different ways.”
But Rep Ric Killian, R-Mecklenburg, told the committee that “North Carolina is the only state in the nation that fully funds its drivers ed program – it’s $32 million out of the highway fund every year. In an effort to generate revenue for road construction and maintenance, we felt it was appropriate to rebalance this.” The amendment failed.
Rapp tried again with an amendment for a year’s delay before transferring More at Four to Health and Human Services. He said a study group has been meeting for some time to work out the transfer, but they haven’t yet come up with a plan. “This is an example of – again – ‘Ready, fire, aim.’”
But Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, insisted Republican leaders do have a plan in place to manage the transition. The amendment failed.
Orchids and Onions
At the end of the meeting, Stam praised the budget package. “Some people think it spends too much, some people think it spends too little. I think it’s about right.”
Stam also said Democrats are exaggerating the extent of the cuts, which he says are only 6 to 7 percent less than current year spending. “It’s not draconian,” Stam said. “It’s not devastating. Grandmother will not be taken in her wheelchair and thrown down the stairs because of this budget…Children will have teachers.”
Former Democratic budget chairman Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, disagreed.
“It is draconian,” Michaux said. “There’s been some work put into this budget, but it’s one of the most disappointing budgets I have seen.”
Michaux said 18,532 jobs could be lost in the education budget alone. “The jobs that you came here talking about are the ones that are gonna be lost.”
“You don’t have to be as vindictive in this budget as you are,” he added.
Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, warned Republicans that voters may not like it, either. “In a few months, when the rubber hits the road and all these things are put out for implementation, people will see,” Adams said. “I don’t think, despite what some people in here think, that they’ll be happy about it.”
The measure is due on the House floor for its first vote next Tuesday.