@NCCapitol

Senate budget includes smaller classes, SBI shift, tax cuts

Posted May 24, 2011

— Senate Republicans unveiled their $19.4 billion plan for North Carolina state government on Tuesday, saying there's plenty for Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue to like in it.

Budget subcommittees began reviewing portions of the budget Tuesday morning in advance of a vote by the full Senate Appropriations Committee later this week.

"The Senate budget overall cuts taxes, reforms education and reduces spending," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said, calling it "a responsible document."

"It keeps the promises that government has made to the people to provide core services," said Berger, R-Rockingham.

The proposal spends $130 million more than the budget passed by the House three weeks ago, but it is still about $500 million less than Perdue's spending plan.

Appropriations Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Richard Stevens said Perdue should be pleased with the Senate's efforts to reduce public school class sizes and create a merit-based pay system for teachers and state employees.

The budget plan spends $141 million more on education than the House proposal, including $62 million more for public schools and an extra $88 million for the University of North Carolina system. Still, the spending levels are lower than Perdue's recommendations.

Under the Senate proposal, 13,000 teaching assistants in grades 1-3 would lose their jobs, but school districts would invest those savings to hire 1,100 teachers in those grades to reduce class sizes. The plan also would add five days to the public school calendar, provide $100 million for school construction and phase out state funding of school buses.

North Carolina Legislature Building (4x3) Senate budget includes smaller classes, SBI shift tax cuts

Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt said the budget guts early education.

"The teacher aides are the best deal the state of North Carolina has gotten anywhere," said Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.

Perdue said she is still reviewing the Senate budget but said the House and Senate need to properly fund education in their final budget proposal.

"By the time they come together, they need to send me a budget that protects our schools, community colleges and universities," she said in a statement. "If they pass a budget that undermines our schools and fails to protect the quality of our education system, then I will have no choice but to veto it.”

The budget needs to be approved by July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

Five House Democrats would need to vote with Republicans to override any veto, and at least one wasn't supportive of the Senate's spending plan.

"There's just no way I'll be able to support it," said Rep. William Brisson, D-Bladen.

The North Carolina Partnership for Children, which serves as the funding clearinghouse for the Smart Start pre-kindergarten program, also would be dismantled under the Senate budget. About $70 million for the program would funnel through the state Division of Child Development, and Smart Start and the More at Four program would be overseen by the state Department of Health and Human Services instead of the Department of Public Instruction.

"Abolishing Smart Start is the wrong direction to go on education," Olson Huff, chairman of the Partnership for Children, said in a statement. "You can't get older children to perform in school by taking resources from younger children – at the very time that their brains are being hard-wired to learn."

The DHHS budget would be cut an extra $28 million under the Senate proposal than in the House plan, including more cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates, community support and services.

@NCCapitol Budget plan elicits fiery response

The Department of Justice funding would be reduced by 70 percent under the Senate budget, from $90 million to $25 million. Much of that is tied to the transfer of the State Bureau of Investigation and its beleaguered crime lab to the new Department of Public Safety.

The head of that department, which would be created under a consolidation plan proposed by Perdue, would be appointed by the governor and approved by lawmakers.

The crime lab has been criticized since an independent review last year found that analysts overstated blood-stain evidence in more than 200 criminal cases over a 16-year period.

Still, Attorney General Roy Cooper said moving the SBI and the crime lab would be a mistake.

"You've taken away an important tool in the fight against public corruption, and I think it's outrageous," Cooper said. "This move would take away that independence and put the investigations at risk."

The Senate also called for a 0.25 percent cut to the tax rate in each of the state's three personal income tax brackets and allows a penny increase to the state sales tax rate, which lawmakers passed two years ago to balance the budget, to expire as scheduled at the end of June.

Perdue had called for keeping three-quarters of that penny increase in place to help fund schools.

The Senate proposal also would exempt small businesses from taxes on their first $50,000 in earnings, but it wouldn't cut the corporate tax rate. Perdue had proposed dropping the rate from 6.9 to 4.9 percent, but senators said the state couldn't afford the drop in revenue.

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  • davisgw May 25, 2011

    Every group that depends on state money needs to suck it up and make the cuts. Roy Cooper has it all wrong about the crime lab loosing it credability, it has already been damaged beyond repair. The move would be a step in the right direction. Perhaps managers will not be moved to other assignments before problems become public.

  • Alert5 May 25, 2011

    I Guess the media forgot to mention this?????

    Mandated by Congress in 1998 and finally released in January of 2010, the impact study by HHS’s Administration for Children and Families reached some conclusions that should give the Obama administration second thoughts about making Head Start a holy grail in the budget wars.

    For example, the report concluded that access to Head Start did have “positive impacts on several aspects of children’s school readiness” during their time in the program—among them, “impacts on vocabulary (PPVT), letter-word identification, spelling . . . [and] letter-naming.”

    “However,” the report concluded, “the advantages children gained during their Head Start and age 4 years yielded only a few statistically significant differences in outcomes at the end of the first grade for the sample as a whole.” ("Head Start Impact Study, Final Report," January 2010, Executive Sumary, p. iv.)

  • babbleon May 25, 2011

    'You cannot make people successful. Only they can.' artist

    But you can make sure they have the opportunity to be successful, by making sure they have food, a safe place to learn, and decent teachers and books.

    Equality of Opportunity is what made the US great. Access to public education is critical for opportunity.

  • babbleon May 25, 2011

    If you want these programs to continue - you have to cut somewhere else! And NO - raising taxes on others is not a valid response. artist

    Since the individual tax burden is currently LOWER than it was in the 90s, raising taxes is a valid response. Tax rates didn't harm the economy in the 90s. Why is it not valid?

    If we have to make choices, I'd rather stop paying businesses to come to NC. That's about the same amt ($16M) that the House budget wanted to cut from Smart Start, and it's very ineffective.

    re: wanting to do away with public - I apologize, looks like I got you mixed up with Alex.

    Better budget choices:
    http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2011/04/13/the-devils-in-the-details-budget-and-tax-center-reaction-to-house-budget-subcommittee-recommendations/

  • LambeauSouth May 25, 2011

    BTW: I work in education, so I can assure you your accusation of me wanting to do away with public is dead wrong....Artist
    I call bull on this one Artist, or should I say based upon your recent comments about teachers, if your in education then no wonder it's in shambles........

  • babbleon May 25, 2011

    "Yes it's called no teacher assistants, parents involved, holding little Johnny back a grade, stop teaching to tests, ... 'My child is terrific' at this school mentality has destroyed education. "

    Spot on! artist

    So, other than the teacher assts, what part of this equates to cutting funding? And do you have any proof that teacher assts harm educational outcomes?

    You and nighttrain are making a semi-decent case for societal and educational REFORM, but most are not relevant to cutting educational funding.

  • artist May 25, 2011

    "Well, parental involvement hasn't changed much in 20 years."

    Hmmm....

  • artist May 25, 2011

    "Public education (*especially* early childhood, like Smart Start and More at 4) means that we have a broader pool of educated citizens for businesses or professions (like programmers, doctors and nurses)." babbleon

    I would love to see all the adults that did not get to be part of the "wealthy elite" because they missed out on more at four, etc.

    It's a feel good program for sure - and no question it has value.

    But YOU have to make choices. If you want these programs to continue - you have to cut somewhere else! And NO - raising taxes on others is not a valid response.

    ** I would also love to see how many kids that got to enjoy these "miracle" programs eventually dropped out of school. **

    What were the drop out rates before and after these programs were implemented?

    You cannot make people successful. Only they can.

    BTW: I work in education, so I can assure you your accusation of me wanting to do away with public is dead wrong.

  • artist May 25, 2011

    "Yes it's called no teacher assistants, parents involved, holding little Johnny back a grade if he fails (instead of passing them on), stop teaching to tests (which such scores as your survey above is based on), and quit coddling the little rugrats. 'My child is terrific' at this school mentality has destroyed education. "

    Spot on!

  • babbleon May 25, 2011

    "It's called no teacher assistants, parents involved, holding little Johnny back a grade if he fails (instead of passing them on), stop teaching to tests (which such scores as your survey above is based on), and quit coddling the little rugrats"
    nighttrain

    Well, parental involvement hasn't changed much in 20 years. If anything, lower performing students have greater pressure to achieve, as we see geeks become more popular.

    Teacher assts - you *really* think that has harmed ed?

    Teaching to the test - whoa - I *agree* with you on something!

    Holding back/accountability: We do that, still - you can see the stats on it. I don't know if that's changed, feel free to pop a link in showing that it has.

    'My child is terrific': research shows that if you tell a kid, 'it's hard, but if you work hard you can learn it' they do better than if you tell them 'you're smart, you can learn it.' I'd be up for trying to change the message.

    But cutting funding is not relevant to the parts we agree on.

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