Senate gives key approval to proposed state budget

Posted June 1, 2011

State budget

— The state Senate debated for more than three hours Wednesday before providing key approval to a $19.7 billion spending plan for next year.

Senators voted 31-18 along party lines to pass the second reading of the proposed budget. A final vote is expected Thursday, and Republican lawmakers said they hope the plan will make it through the House and reach Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue's desk by the end of the week.

The Republican Senate majority penned a two-year budget designed to attract enough Democrats in the House later this week to turn back a potential veto by Perdue. Before the first of two required votes in the chamber, GOP senators beat back several amendments by Democrats, who complained the measure would devastate public schools and health care for the poor.

Republicans argue that they've tempered the reductions in the public schools and restored funding for teaching assistant jobs and for more teachers in the early grades. They also expect tens of thousands of private-sector jobs from letting temporary taxes expire and offering a small-business tax break.

"I don't want to hear that Republicans don't care. That's not true," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph. "This is a very caring budget."

Senate Democrats contend the bill would eliminate more jobs immediately in the public sector. They cite documents from the public schools, University of North Carolina system and community colleges saying the Senate budget would eliminate 13,000 positions in the new fiscal year starting July 1.

"What's been done in this budget to boost the economy will take years, I mean years, to offset the thousands of jobs lost through this process in education," said Sen. Charlie Dannelly, D-Mecklenburg. "We all know that the basic foundation of economic growth is a sound effective educational system ... This budget diminishes all of that."

Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, criticized what he called "Republican math" in which job losses are ignored and only new teaching positions are counted.

"This budget does immense damage to the education system," Stein said.

Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, complained that some cuts would hurt the state's elderly residents. "Society is judged by how we take care of the least of us," he said.

Another defeated amendment would have allowed Planned Parenthood to keep receiving funds from the state to provide medical services unrelated to abortions for poor women.

"This budget in general is not just an attack on citizens. It's an attack on women," said Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, in support of the Planned Parenthood amendment. "You've gone from attacking their children, all the way to their health."

Republicans point out that nearly $3 million in the state budget – through federal grants – would go to teen pregnancy prevention initiatives.

The Senate also defeated an attempt to separate an effort to extend jobless benefits to more than 40,000 North Carolina residents who have exhausted all unemployment benefits. Democrats wanted a standalone bill, but Republicans wanted the measure kept within the budget.

While in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Perdue compared the spending plan to a fig leaf on a statue, "covering up parts so we really don't see the cuts fully." She later issued a series of news releases analyzing the impact on school districts across the state.

The Wake County Public School System, for example, would lose $42.3 million under the proposal, while Durham Public Schools would have to cut $9.3 million and Cumberland County Schools would lose $15.1 million, according to the analysis by Perdue's staff.

"Folks need to stand up and make the right decisions, not do something that's politically expedient or something that is totally unnecessary," she said. "For all those people who are going to lose their jobs, this is unnecessary, and it does hurt North Carolina."

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger ended the lengthy debate Wednesday by noting that the difference in education funding between the governor's proposal and the spending plan before the Senate was a fraction of 1 percent.

The spending cuts in the proposed budget reflect the economic slowdown, Berger said, while trying to support education and other services.

"It's an effort to do what's best for North Carolina," he said.

The 31-19 vote in the Senate would be enough to overcome a Perdue veto, and a handful of House Democrats have said they would support the budget as well, making it extremely difficult for the governor to sustain a veto.


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  • beachboater Jun 7, 2011

    Back in the "good ole days" of 4 1/2% unemployment, what did you guys do when you took a temporary layoff to refit a factory, or any other facility you would like to insert in that spot.

    You either used your rainy day fund, or you cut back. North Carolina doesn't have much of a rainy day fund these days, and not much increase in tax revenue is projected for the immediate future.

    North Carolina's budget exploded in the 80's and 90's. All those dollars thrown at education, more every year. What happened to test scores? I think I remember seeing here that North Carolina is ranked something like 44th in the country. That's not much return on that "investment." We've proven that throwing money at education doesn't improve anything. It creates a massive beaurocracy of administrators that accomplishes nothing.

    A couple of years ago, when school systems had to return money to the state the headline in my local newspaper was about the budget cuts would come from classroom supplies. C

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jun 2, 2011

    "Let's see...multi-billion dollar wars in several different countries, wealthy investors making billions on oil speculation, driving the price of one of our most crucial commodities to ridiculous heights, bailouts of huge corporations, bailouts of financial institutions who engaged in highly unethical practices and then couldn't understand why they failed...the list goes on. - BIlzac"

    Everything you mentioned affects the Federal Budget. None of these items affect the State Budget. Nice Try and thanks for playing.

  • magee43 Jun 2, 2011

    I hope this will help the families that are out of work and out of their homes due to the tornado. Everyone wants less government but the Republicans don't care about the unemployed that also loss their homes. I loss my home and everything in the 1988 tornado and thank God I had a job.
    People don't decide to leave their jobs so they can get unemployment as the Right & Tea Party continue to insist there are jobs to be had. Yesterday on the news there are 8 million unemployed in the USA.
    To put an attachment to the bill as the only way to renew the unemployment payments when these people are already suffering from the loss of their homes, is not what God would do. Apparently He wasn't a Republican.

  • spartanpirate Jun 2, 2011

    People wise up. We are on the verge of a depression. The Democrats just continued to spend like there was no tomorrow. Well guess what? Tomorrow has arrived. You can't get blood out of a turnip and you certainly can't get tax money from those unemployeed. We have to wise up and suck it up and cut spending! We all have to do it in our own budgets at home so why are people so argumentative about State Government doing it. It isn't pleasant to cut budgets for education. How about DHHS, DENR, Labor, etc. All agencies are seeing there budgets cut. Yes, there will be layoffs. That is sad in this economy but we can't continue to spend what we don't have. Hopefully the economy will turn around. Raising taxes is not the way to do it. Most people in NC haven't seen a raise in 2 to 3 years. Everything keeps going up except the paychecks. Let's hand it to this legislature that they do see where the economy is going and that they have made some tough decisions.

  • Homesteader79 Jun 2, 2011

    Well we all must agree that we cannot spend what we don't have, if Bev thinks the current budget is moving us backwards due to education cuts, perhaps she should be the leader that was elected and propose the cuts elsewhere.

  • BIlzac Jun 2, 2011

    Responding to patrick85ed:

    I don't recall anyone suggesting that education should not be cut. In lean budget times, every part of the budget is going to take some kind of hit.

    In my part of the state, our local school corporation is anticipating a 15% reduction in State funding. That's fifteen percent. Think what it would be like if you went to work one day and your boss told you that next year you were losing almost two months of your normal annual income.

    That's what the legislature is proposing with their educational cuts. Essentially two months of last years funding will be gone.

    At the same time, if I did find that I was going to have my income cut, I would sit down with my current budget and begin eliminating the "extras" first. I would not choose to cut my mortgage budget by x%, and then deal with the inevitable issues of trying to sell my home and find a cheaper place to live.

    Of course it could get to that point, and I would realize that was an eventual possibility.

  • davidk_at_unc Jun 2, 2011

    Hmm - not sure where davidK gets 13,000 spending = 100/month, I get 100/.01 = 10,000. Still, you get the picture - it's a VERY small sacrifice for most of us - I spend maybe 1K/month on taxable stuff for my family, or $10. I'm TOTALLY willing to give up two fast food meals so that someone else can keep their job." -- babbleon

    That's based on the fact that it's actually a 0.75% difference, not a full 1%, but thanks for your support! :^)

  • patrick85ed Jun 2, 2011

    I know this for a fact, we could loose 100+ positions in my department at NC State and no-one would miss them at all. But I have a question for everyone commenting here, if you do not want the legislature to cut money from the education budget (which by the way is the largest piece of the budget pie here in nc) where exactly do you propose making cuts and how much less do you think it will affect these smaller groups?

  • hp277 Jun 2, 2011

    This budget only drops NC to #49 in the country in per-pupil funding, below SC and Mississippi. I don't know what the GOP is thinking.

    Why not go for #50? If you're gonna break the public schools, go for broke and make us last in the country!

    #50, here we come!!

  • babbleon Jun 2, 2011

    Rather than having a legislature that looks at a state budget critically, we have one that seeks out the largest portion of the budget and slashes it indiscriminately. BIlzac

    Well put, and agreed. I would like to see a review put into place where regulations and positions are checked, at least once a decade, as to whether they are still needed.