Editorial: Legislature's in overtime. Address N.C.'s real needs now

Wednesday, July 12, 2023 -- Our General Assembly is in overtime and taxpayers are spending plenty. Legislators can use the time to expand Medicaid, provide children with access to the quality education they are promised and address other critical needs.
Posted 2023-07-12T02:38:06+00:00 - Updated 2023-07-12T09:00:00+00:00
North Carolina House of Representatives chamber, N .C. Legislative Building

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, July 12, 2023; editorial #8857

The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Every day the North Carolina General Assembly is in session past July 1, when it is supposed finish its work, it costs state taxpayers at least $42,000 extra. That means as of Tuesday (July 11, 2023), the legislative leaders’ failure to effectively manage and get their work done has cost $462,000 (including $195,000 legislators collect in tax-free “per diem”).

In the 11 days since July 1, legislators have only actually “worked” (and that’s a stretch) on two days.

Those funds for the care and comfort of legislators are tax dollars not being spent to help public school children, build research facilities at our public universities or pay for the care for hard-working North Carolinians who may not have money to access medical care but might suffer health problems related to the summer’s excessive heat.

It has been 182 days since North Carolina’s General Assembly convened on Jan. 11.

While other regional, county and local agencies have passed budgets, as they are required to do, there’s no state budget.

That failure to act has consequences beyond merely the additional money spent to support the extended legislative session.

Agencies that get state dollars for their operations have been forced to pass budgets that still leave uncertainty as to funding levels for key programs and personnel.

Public schools and other local agencies have been forced to make decisions about salaries, staffing, program offerings and other critical needs without knowing what level of state support they’ll receive. Imagine managers trying to set workers’ pay, benefits and resources without knowing the details of the most significant source of support?

Lack of effective management at the General Assembly does have consequences – that don’t necessarily have anything to do with Republicans or Democrats – but have everything to do with what kinds of services local governments are able to provide their citizens.

While the legislature’s not been able to do its required tasks, there’s been plenty of time to pass unnecessary legislation. They’ve been picking unproductive culture wars fights with bills aimed at dividing North Carolinians over miniscule matters --- looking to ignite passions but providing little to fuel the real needs of the state.

Will North Carolinians be better off because they do, or don’t, have laws micromanaging who can or cannot participate in certain high school sports?

Will North Carolina parents truly be empowered by laws that actually dictate what teachers can and cannot tell them about what’s going on with their kids in schools?

Is the physical health and mental well-being of children better off by laws that dictate what parents and medical professionals can decide on treatment of youthful patients?

All this unnecessary legislation has taken priority over the real needs of North Carolinians.

While legislators bloviate, issues that need immediate action go unattended.

Promised expansion of Medicaid – providing much needed health care to more than 600,000 hard working citizens – remains an illusion. Since 2014, when the legislature refused to take billions in federal funds to expand Medicaid, women have missed more than 111,870 annual mammograms. Nearly 230,000 diabetics haven’t had the medication they require. As many as 14,000 lives (not including any COVID-related) have been needlessly lost.

The governor has warned if “Medicaid expansion and the Healthcare Access and Stabilization Program that reimburses hospitals don’t go live at the same time it will cost the hospitals as much as $60 million more than necessary.” Further, as many as 9,000 people are losing their Medicaid coverage, who otherwise would have been able to keep it under expansion.

There’s been little discussion about a consensus plan to address the state’s judicially-affirmed (by Republican and Democratic judges and justices) failure to fulfill a state constitutional promise – a right for all children to have access to a quality education. The right to have a qualified teacher in their classrooms and that those classrooms have the necessary resources so those teachers can do their jobs. The right to attend schools that aren’t crumbling or over-crowded. The right to have the support of school nurses, counselors and psychologists so students are best able to focus on learning.

There’s a consensus plan to do it, there are funds available and legislators must incorporate it into the budget they’ve yet to pass.

Our General Assembly is in overtime and taxpayers are spending plenty. Legislators can use the time to expand Medicaid, provide children with access to the quality education they are promised and address other critical needs.

Since Jan. 11, posturing, neglect and division overrides duty, care, concern and devotion to the needs of the state.

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