NC Senate gives key approval to $20B budget

Posted June 13, 2012

— The state Senate on Wednesday tentatively approved a budget proposal that spends less than the House but does not go as far as state representatives in reducing expected public school cuts.

After wading through a series of proposed amendments, the Senate voted along party lines 30-18 to pass the $20.2 billion spending plan on its second reading. A final vote is set for Thursday.

Senate Republicans decided to give more financial aid and enrollment money to the University of North Carolina system than the House plan approved two weeks ago, but the budget includes funding to offset only a portion of the $258 million in federal stimulus money to public schools that expires this year.

Senate Democrats said the GOP plan continues to treat public schoolteachers poorly. The funding gap could mean pink slips for 1,000 more teachers, 2,000 teaching assistants and 3,000 other school personnel, they said.

"When parents in your district find out they’re going to lose teachers, they’re not going to be happy campers," Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt said.

Democrats also criticized Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger's proposed education reforms, which were rolled into the budget bill, including eliminating teacher tenure.

"What this budget has done is shown teachers how much we don’t appreciate their services to the future of this state," said Sen. Charlie Dannelly, D-Mecklenburg. “There’s one thing I know. The citizens of North Carolina are watching. Beware."

Berger and other Republicans dismissed the "apocalyptic language" of the Democrats' debate, noting schools continue to operate and that their budget would spend more on schools in the coming year than in the school year that just ended.

"There is a vision in this budget as to what we want public schools to be," said Berger, R-Rockingham.

Democrats called for a temporary sales tax increase to help generate money for schools, and Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, said Republicans have "a vision deficit" by sacrificing schools so they could avoid raising taxes.

"Up until now, the vision has always been, we’ll just lay another dollar on it, and that will take care of things," Berger responded.

The Senate budget does provide a 1.2 percent raise to teachers and other state workers, although school administrators say the $84 million set aside for teacher raises will be used to offset the loss of the federal stimulus money instead. The House called for a one-time $250 bonus.

The House budget also set aside $11 million to compensate living victims of North Carolina's forced sterilization program, but the Senate didn't include any money for payments. The Senate used a parliamentary procedure Wednesday to get around a proposed amendment to include funding for eugenics victims.

“You can’t rewrite history," said Sen. Don East, R-Surry. "I’m sorry. I had nothing to do with that. A few dollars ain’t going to change nothing.”

Senators reinstated tolls on coastal ferry routes that Gov. Beverly Perdue wiped out this spring with an executive order. House members had put the tolls on hold for a year.

"Sooner or later, we’re going to have to bite this bullet. We can bite it now, or let it continue to bite us," said Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick.

Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, said the Senate plan also tries to place moorings upon Medicaid by setting aside another $330 million for the financially strapped health program.

Once the Senate budget is approved, House and Senate members will negotiate a final spending plan to send to Perdue by the end of the month. The new budget would take effect on July 1.


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  • for the people Jun 14, 2012

    I think our senator might reconsider slashing our public school dollars if he continues to speak like this...

    “You can’t rewrite history," said Sen. Don East, R-Surry. "I’m sorry. I had nothing to do with that. A few dollars ain’t going to change nothing.”

  • chfdcpt Jun 13, 2012

    When mentioning the 1.2% payraise for state employees, please remember that last fiscal year they had to "return" 1% of their salary back to the state in the last month of the fiscal year.

    So they are getting a .2% payraise after making up the pay return.

  • Plenty Coups Jun 13, 2012

    "I'm getting really sick and tired of people saying that state employees don't live in the "real world". Where do you think we buy our groceries?"

    Employment surveys like Mercer show most private sector jobs getting raises the last few years. Is that not the "real world"?

    Survey after survey:

    And yet state workers should NEVER get raises in a overall low taxed state???

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxx Jun 13, 2012

    "Join the crowd out in the real world."

    I'm getting really sick and tired of people saying that state employees don't live in the "real world". Where do you think we buy our groceries? How much do you think we pay for gas? Where do you think we buy our clothes? How much do you think our dentists and doctors charge us? Who do you think we pay our rent and mortgages to? Stop acting like we live in some sort of fantasy land - we are your neighbors and we pay the same amount to live as you do, but get paid a lot less money.

  • Plenty Coups Jun 13, 2012

    farm-"The last 4 general assemblies have not made it a priority. Do not act like it is just this one."

    Right, but if you remember, the recession hit in 2008. Teachers weren't happy about getting their pay frozen and their merit pay taken away but they put up with it since the state was in a bind. The last 2 years, we've rebounded. There was over a billion dollars in surplus-this could have fixed the problem but the general assembly chose to cut a penny sales tax and enact a new tax cut for "small" businesses which turned into tax exemptions for ALL businesses, law firms, doctors offices etc. on their 1st 50 K of income. Then they went further and ended tenure, cut state and teacher health care tremendously, promised "merit" pay for good teachers (turned out to be a lie), bashed NCAE, and laid off hundreds of teachers. It's about priorities and the republicans don't support public education. Actions speak louder than words.

  • lobgill7 Jun 13, 2012

    "I realize teachers are underpaid, but the rest of us state employees are as well." sshuey

    Join the crowd out in the real world.

  • billelliott91985 Jun 13, 2012

    The legislators need to remember this is an election year for one thing. However that being said I would love to see anyone not in education try to do my job. Most wouldn't last a day. We are turning out future leaders but are the lowest paid. When they aren't educated to anyones satisfaction remember whose "throat" the legislators cut first. We needa cost of living raise at least. More would be greatly appreciated.

  • HadMyFill Jun 13, 2012

    I will preface this with saying that I love teachers. My Mother, Aunt and Sister are all teachers in public school systems. I have a public school education and I cherish what I learned during those years. However.... I think it is high time that we start charging a school toll for people who have children. The current taxes we all pay should be enough to fund the schools. If it is not, then we need to follow the lead of the toll road advocates and start requesting that parents put in a little bit more in the form of a use tax. We all pay for the schools, but those who use them should foot a little more of the bill... that seems to be the way in this day and age.

  • maxcadman Jun 13, 2012

    amen sshuey!!!!

  • farm Jun 13, 2012

    "The current general assembly isn't making it a priority though."

    The last 4 general assemblies have not made it a priority. Do not act like it is just this one.