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Legislature approves compromise budget

Posted June 21, 2012

— The House and Senate on Thursday approved a compromise $20.2 billion state budget, setting up a potential showdown with Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Senators voted 30-15 in favor of the budget for the year starting July 1, which provides a 1.2 percent raise for teachers and state workers and eases the loss of federal stimulus funding to schools but omits compensation for victims of North Carolina's former forced sterilization program.

"The reality is, we have so many dollars to spend, and we have to make decisions based on what money is available," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said. "We don't have the money to do everything."

About a half hour after the Senate vote, the House passed the budget by a 71-45 vote.

Perdue now has 10 days to decide whether to veto the measure or let it become law. She vetoed the two-year budget last year, but the veto was overridden.

"The budget passed today does not go far enough in restoring funding for public schools in North Carolina," she said in a statement Thursday evening. "I will continue to review the proposal, but it is my sincere hope that the General Assembly will find a way to do better in the days ahead.”

The compromise budget spends hundreds of millions of dollars less than what Perdue proposed in her spending plan. She wanted a temporary sales tax increase to restore education cuts, but Republican legislative leaders refused to include new taxes in their plan.

Senate Democrats criticized the budget for not providing more money for education. Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, predicted the loss of hundreds of teaching jobs statewide and said the budget accelerates "a long-term degradation to our competitive system."

Calling Stein's calculations "fuzzy math," Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, said total spending on education in North Carolina has increased in the past two years. He also said Republicans have "done great work with the mess that we were left" by the formerly Democratic-controlled legislature.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said fears of massive teacher layoffs were overblown, noting schools remained open and students continued to learn after a round of spending cuts last year. The budget provides raises to teachers without resorting to one-time funds, a tactic that he said Democrats used in previous years to patch budget holes, only to create more budget problems down the line.

NC General Assembly 4x3 Lawmakers send spending plan to Perdue

"You can make a budget that will look goo and appease a lot of people if you use one-time money," Tillman said, asking Democrats how they would address funding problems if they were able to defeat the Republican plan.

"We wouldn't give a tax credit to the wealthy to fire lots of teachers," Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, responded, noting that eliminating a tax break for large businesses could generate $141 million for education.

Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, said he was concerned that the budget "kills and eliminates our job-creation capacity" by cutting funds to economic development programs like the North Carolina Rural Center and the Golden LEAF development foundation. He also regretted that the Senate didn't join the House in supporting compensation for eugenics victims.

The House had included $11 million to pay $50,000 lump-sum payments to any living victim of the sterilization program, which ran from the 1930s to the mid-1970s. So far, 146 living victims have been verified.

The lack of money for eugenics payments also was a point of contention for House Democrats, who said Republican leaders caved to their Senate counterparts and didn't fight hard enough to keep the money in the budget.

“You’ve just gone ahead and let the Senate roll you,” said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake.

Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said the compromise budget "makes a mockery of this state's historic commitment to education."

Republicans countered that North Carolina residents are still dealing with a sluggish economy and cannot afford to follow the call of Perdue and Democrats in the General Assembly to raise the sales tax to generate more money for schools.

"Budgeting conservatively is the right approach. Avoiding raising taxes at this point in the economy is imperative," said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

Other provisions of the budget include a one-year cap on the state gas tax, a $100 million reserve for the cash-strapped Medicaid fund, tolls on coastal ferries and money to study how to regulate natural gas drilling in North Carolina.

The spending plan met with mixed reviews outside the General Assembly.

State NAACP President Rev. William Barber said the budget is an example of "regressive tax policies" and accused lawmakers of "marginalizing" public education andl pursuing policies harmful to the environment.

"Their actions are mean-spirited towards the poor and the working class, racist and racially disparate toward African-Americans and minorities and intentionally harmful to progress," Barber said at a news conference.

University of North Carolina President Tom Ross said it appears that lawmakers did the best they could in a rough budget year.

“We understand that resources are scarce in every part of state government and believe the legislature worked hard to address our most significant needs and assist us in protecting the quality of education we deliver to our students," Ross said in a statement. "This budget provides some funding for enrollment growth, provides operating reserves for new buildings and begins to restore earlier reductions in financial aid for North Carolina students.”

Bill Harrison, chairman of the State Board of Education, called the budget disappointing, saying it will harm schools and the state's long-term economic success.

"Lawmakers have clearly chosen to put politics before the needs of students, and in making that choice, they have let all of North Carolina down," Harrison wrote in his blog.

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  • Plenty Coups Jun 22, 2012

    "Furthermore, I could argue a computer programming degree is much more difficult to obtain than a teachers degree. I could argue most degrees are more difficult than a teaching degree"

    Yes, I'm sure you'd argue that as it might mean paying less for teachers. Like someone trying to bargain a seller down from the asking price. But of course you have no evidence of this and I doubt you have multiple degrees.

  • Plenty Coups Jun 22, 2012

    whatelseisnew-"Until teachers perform better and raise their productivity levels"

    Yes, I know in your world teachers should never get raises and all services should be cut unless you benefit.

  • whatelseisnew Jun 22, 2012

    "I claimed teachers make 20- 70 thousand dollars less than other professions that require the same education."

    Other profession do not require the same education. If it were the same education than all degrees would be in education and nothing else. Until teachers perform better and raise their productivity levels, they do not deserve to make more money. Aside from that in addition to their salary and benefits, the private sector taxpayer provides their workplace and transports their consumers to from their place of work. education costs are far far too high and all must be done to get those costs under control. NO more than 30 percent of the State budget should go to education.

  • whatelseisnew Jun 22, 2012

    The spending is ridiculous. We need to get some people elected that will get serious about reducing spending and getting rid of State debt. The Republicans have done some small improvement, but much much more needs to be done to get this State into a solid fiscal position and then be able to get taxes reduced to an acceptable level.

  • NCHighlander Jun 22, 2012

    WRAL time to take this one down dudes. 1:10 PM since your last admitted post.

  • nralgreen Jun 22, 2012

    Plenty Coups, I used your exact statement, but replaced 'teachers' with 'computer programmers'. And you come back with MY exact original argument. Just like I didn't say "Most", you didn't say "Some". Furthermore, I could argue a computer programming degree is much more difficult to obtain than a teachers degree. I could argue most degrees are more difficult than a teaching degree.

  • Plenty Coups Jun 22, 2012

    nralgren-You are correct in that there is more than one profession that pays less than teachers. I did a quick check of the comprehensive list and got around 10 or so after discounting duplications. Give or take a few. But there was only one profession significantly less than teacher pay and that was the TV reporter/announcer group. But overwhelmingly, there were over a hundred occupations that require the same degree and pay more. Much much more than teachers. Not even in the same ballpark. And teaching REQUIRES those degrees while many of these professions don't. That's the point.

    "Also by your original logic computer programmers make 20-70k less than professions that require the same education ... "

    No, thats not quite the same logic. They don't make less than MOST occupations requiring the same education.

  • nralgreen Jun 22, 2012

    Plenty Coups, Regarding the other professions that make less than teachers, simply look at the very Occupation Finder website you posted. According to the website you posted here's a few: Recreation workers, radio and television announcers, reporters and correspondents, survery researchers, recreational therapists, Interior Designers, probation officers, Biological technicians, Interpreters and translators, graphic designers, etc. There are MANY listed in the website you posted. Also by your original logic computer programmers make 20-70k less than professions that require the same education ... because there are SOME professions that do make $20k more. But we all know computer programmers do very well. If you insist your original statement was correct, it's at least VERY misleading as are many other "facts" you state.

  • Plenty Coups Jun 22, 2012

    nralgreen-"So you agree every profession that requires a degree doesn't make $20k more than a teacher. You were originally WRONG. Geez"

    I claimed teachers make 20- 70 thousand dollars less than other professions that require the same education. They do. I've proven it. I never claimed every single professions. Social workers seem to be the exception but they are generally government workers also. The fact remains, ALMOST ALL professions that require a 4 year degree make 20-70 thousand more than teachers. A list that includes dozens of professions. You give me one example (which is barely less) yet you claimed "many" professions make less than teachers. Where are your "many" examples?

  • cwood3 Jun 22, 2012

    She'll veto this budget just to spite the legislature.

    Thank goodness she's not running. Her landslide defeat would help document that the only reason she won 4 years ago was BArack Obama! Dalton will loose in a similar fashion.

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