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Opinion The Raleigh Report

Rep. Phil HaireFrom the Office of Rep. Phil Haire

Budget writers in the General Assembly rolled out their broad budget proposals this week and have introduced a plan that will set back our state by firing teachers and state employees and limiting our children’s education options.

While Gov. Perdue offered a balanced approach that protected all teacher and teacher assistant jobs, this plan makes no such assurances and calls for cutting education spending by $760 million — 6.5 percent — from the governor’s budget. Their suggestions for doing this include shutting down preschools and keeping more people out of our university systems, even as our population continues to grow.

The plan will result in putting even more people in North Carolina out of work. Thousands of state workers will lose their jobs and most of them are middle class. Sixty percent of state employees earn less than $45,000 a year.

This plan also contains other elements that will weaken North Carolina and I intend to fight hard to help shape a better plan that will make our state stronger as we emerge from the worst of the economic downturn.

The budget proposals call for enormous cuts to education ... like the elimination of the international model programs Smart Start and More at Four.

Budget

The budget proposals released by the new majority call for enormous cuts to education. Cuts they are considering include:

• Elimination of the international model programs Smart Start and More at Four.
• Turning away qualified students from UNC system schools by implementing a enrollment cap.
• Driving up enrollment at community colleges, though it is unclear if spending for these schools will increase.
• Decreasing financial aid options and eliminating some tuition waivers.

In the Health and Human Services sector, the budget proposes cuts of nearly $400 million — a roughly 8 percent cut over what Gov. Perdue proposed. Budget writers are also considering raiding the state’s Health and Wellness Trust Fund, which has established with money from the state’s settlement with tobacco companies about 10 years ago. The money is used to promote healthy lifestyles in the state and has been critical in efforts to reduce teen smoking, among other challenges.

The proposal calls for a 30 percent spending reduction in the Natural and Economic Resources budget. This is money used to keep our air, water and land clean, but the budget also includes money used to help draw business to North Carolina. The plan calls for no investment in the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to protect our state’s water supply. It also instructs budget writers to look at diverting money from the Tobacco Trust Fund and the Golden Leaf Foundation, both of which help communities dealing with the decline of the tobacco industry. Other funds targeted include the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and Wildlife Resources funds. Funding for local water and sewer projects also appear to be at risk.

Veto

Gov. Perdue vetoed her first bill of the session this week. The proposal (S13) called for diverting money out of the state’s economic development budget, the Golden Leaf Foundation and the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, among others. I voted against the bill because it signaled that we are no longer interested in recruiting jobs. The Department of Commerce said several companies put their plans to consider North Carolina as a site for expansion or relocation on hold because they were unsure if the state would be able to assist them with some of their costs. The sponsors of the bill have said they will not attempt to override the veto and will seek to write a compromise bill that addresses our concerns.

Public Safety

I supported a bill this week that seeks to further protect the public from sex offenders. The proposal (H59) prohibits registered sex offenders from obtaining Emergency Medical Service credentials. Those who are convicted cannot have their credentials renewed. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The members of the House took time Monday to honor the late Rep. John Weatherly. Weatherly represented Cleveland, Rutherford, Polk and Gaston counties in the General Assembly for five terms. Weatherly died Jan. 22 at the age of 86.


Rep. Haire may be reached at 300 N. Salisbury St., Room 639, LOB Raleigh, NC 27603, 919/715-3005, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it





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