The House and Senate approved a budget Thursday that keeps North Carolina moving backwards. A year after losing 6,000 public school educators – including 3,000 teachers and teacher assistants – this budget leaves schools with $190 million less than they had last year. The total reduction to funding for K-12 education over two years will reach $650 million. Financial aid for UNC system students has been cut by $22 million.
The budget also continues the attack on women’s health by defunding cancer screenings and health services provided to women by Planned Parenthood. Cuts to programs for victims of rape and domestic violence remain in place. There are many problems with this budget and despite the good news that state employees and teachers are getting badly needed pay raises, I did not vote to support it because of the overwhelming number of bad items and its overall damage to education. I have provided some additional information about the document below. It now goes to the governor, who will have to consider whether to approve it or veto it.
The budget is one of the last big items we are likely to handle this session. The General Assembly is expected to adjourn in early July.
• This budget not only does not repair any of the damage last year’s budget did to schools, it cuts an additional $190 million from the schools. This year’s cut alone is the equivalent of 3,400 teaching jobs.
• The total cut to K-12 schools over the past two years is nearly $650 million.
• This budget eliminates our successful Teaching Fellows and Teacher Cadets programs and programs such as the Tarheel Challenge and Communities in Schools that provide resources for students. It also eliminates funding for PTAs and counselors for children in military families.
• Financial aid for UNC system schools is down $22 million, reducing access to higher education for middle-class students.
• The total cut to the UNC system over this budget cycle is $414 million.
• Pre-Kindergarten programs were reduced by $16 million (20 percent). Smart Start was cut by $34 million. They have failed to meet the conditions set out by a judge who ruled their changes violated the state constitution.
• Continues the “War on Women” by continuing to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides cancer screenings and other health services.
• Fails to reverse cuts to programs for victims of rape and domestic violence enacted in 2011.
• Cuts funding for local mental health services by $20 million.
• Eliminates drug treatment court services.
• Ferry tolls for all ferries except for Knotts Ferry & Okracoke. Cherry Branch/Minnesott tolls will be delayed a year
• Small, one year cut in gas tax.
• Public transportation funds for whole state were eliminated, except for funding for Charlotte rail project.
• Cut maintenance funding for primary and secondary roads by $60 million.
• Cut secondary road construction funding by $26 million.
• No money to compensate victims of forced sterilization.
• Continuation of a tax cut to benefit the wealthy, while further cutting our schools.
• Cuts $6.7 million to foster care programs.
• The State Board of Elections budget has been cut by $120,000 and no money was made available to match the Help America Vote Act federal grant. This cut will strain our elections board during a presidential election year where North Carolina is going to be a key state.
• Diverts $9.6 million from a federal housing settlement intended to help struggling homeowners and puts it in the General Fund.
• Twenty percent cut to Rural Center programs, which are important to many small communities.
• Increases from 100 to 1000 the number of exempt positions that can be filled by the governor. Also allows the governors to set salaries with no cap on cabinet level positions.
• Sets aside $740,000 for a governor’s inauguration and transition costs.
• Ninety percent cut to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which helps communities pay for water and sewer projects.
• Continues to tear apart the Department of Environment and Natural Resources by transferring divisions and employees to the Department of Agriculture.