The Follies of the Senate’s cynical and dangerous budget

| May 30, 2014

Chris FitzsimonBy Chris Fitzsimon, NC Policy Watch and NC SPIN panelist, May 29, 2014.

Many of the headlines about the state budget Senate leaders rolled out this week describe it as taking the state in a different direction or remaking North Carolina. True enough, but that’s not the half of it.

The Senate budget proposal is easily the most cynical and damaging spending plan in modern history and if you think that’s hyperbole, try to come up with one that’s worse.

The three selling points of the plan touted repeatedly by Senate leaders are that it gives teachers the biggest raise in history, that it does not raise taxes, and that it funds ongoing expenses with recurring dollars.

One of those statements is true. It does not raise taxes.

The budget does not give teachers a raise; it crassly buys teachers’ rights to due process protections in their jobs for roughly $6,000 a year.

That’s right. Not all teachers will get a pay hike. Only the ones forced by their economic circumstances to accept the extortion offer will see an increase.

Senate leaders and their philosophical allies on the Right spent the last year trying to convince people that teachers were not grossly underpaid but nobody bought it and the public outrage only grew.

The response was not to address the teacher salary crisis directly, but instead to use it as a lever in their ideological assault on public education.

Even worse is the way they come up with their bribe money, cutting off funds for 7,400 teacher assistants, 70 school nurses, and thousands of administrative personnel across the state that make it possible for schools to function every day.

There’s no new funding for textbooks or classroom supplies after years of cuts have left schools without enough books to go around.

And the damage is not limited to education.  The budget kicks several thousand aged, blind or disabled people off Medicaid, leaving them without health care coverage.

It forces financially strapped hospitals to pick up more of the cost of treating people without insurance, a problem exacerbated by the decision not to expand Medicaid coverage in the state.

The Senate budget astonishingly slashes technology funding for the court system by 24 percent, a severe blow in any year, but unthinkable when you consider the massive problems that currently exist in the judicial system because of woefully underfunded operations.

There are plenty more damaging specific cuts, too many to list, and there are also across the board reductions in most departments and agencies that receive little attention but further erode the ability of state government to do its job serving the people.

None other than Gov. Pat McCrory, hardly a big government politician, pointed that out.

And it’s not just the budget cuts that make this proposal so dangerous. Senate leaders also stuffed it with policy changes from their ideological and political wish list, like moving the SBI from the Department of Justice headed by the Attorney General to the Department of Administration that the governor controls.

The budget creates takes Medicaid out of the Department of Health and Human Services and allows the new entity to end the award-winning nonprofit managed care program Community Care of North Carolina.

The plan literally changes the way state courts handle challenges to laws the General Assembly passes, creating three-judge panels to hear the cases and  making it impossible for a judge to halt the enforcement of a questionable law while a case against it is being heard.

Senate leaders have been stung by recent court decisions against their legislation on vouchers and teacher tenure so they are changing the system that is ruling against them.

The power plays are petty too. While the Senate does not make another round of deep cuts to the university system, it denies faculty members the small salary increase that most state employees will receive.  That will show those liberal professors.

None of the big policy changes were heard in open committee meetings of course. No one testified about why we need a new Medicaid structure or explained how it would work.

Nobody discussed why it would make sense to change the way courts hear lawsuits about legislation.

Nobody discussed anything.

No experts were called to testify and no members of the public had a chance to weigh in on any of it. It all just popped up in a massive bill posted online at 10:00 Wednesday night and passed by a committee early the next morning.

There’s a reason for that. The policy changes and the budget cuts are indefensible. Senators did not want the family of a disabled child standing up in a committee asking why their son or daughter could no longer see a doctor.

The damaging cuts to education and human services and the brazen political moves make it easy to forget another thing about budget, the next round of tax cuts it ignores.

Senate leaders could have funded big raises for teachers by stopping the next round of reductions in the personal and corporate income taxes that take effect January 1st of next year.

But instead they chose to take health care away from people who are blind and take teacher assistants our of second grade classrooms where they help children learn to read.

That speaks volumes about the priorities of the folks currently running the Senate. Their entire budget does. It doesn’t make the vital investments to move the state forward.

Instead their budget settles scores, punishes opponents, dismantles the government they loathe and uses the most vulnerable people in the state as pawns in their crusade.

It’s a breathtakingly cynical, mean-spirited assault on our state and our people and our future.



Category: NC SPIN Perspectives - Opinions from NC Leaders & Organizations

Comments (3)

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  1. Norm Kelly says:

    If Chris hates this budget, there’s probably a lot in there for people to like.
    If this budget proposal irritates libs this much, then it’s probably a good budget proposal.
    When libs were running the show and doing back room deals, passing legislation without hearings, or passing things like state-sponsored gambling in the middle of the night, how did libs in the media respond? How many libs came out and told the general public that the legislature actually didn’t have the best for citizens in mind. Cuz if they did have the citizens in mind, they would have made these deals in open, they would have passed legislation only after hearings and public input.
    I’m not saying the way things are getting done is good. But it does beg one very obvious, glaring question.
    So, libs, how does it feel now that the shoe is on the other foot?
    When the central planners in Washington, more commonly known as the Democrat party, passed unConstitutional socialized medicine, with zero support from Republicans, with very little support from states & voters, and with the need to buy off opponents, how did libs respond? Did libs come crawling out of the woodwork to complain that the country was being forced toward socialism by a small minority of people, against the wishes of the majority? Or did libs try to convince the rest of us, the thinkers amongst us, that everything would be OK, but only if the central planners were allowed to fully implement their plans? You know, kinda like K now saying that Obamacancer is really a good thing, it just needs to be tweaked.
    The shoe is NOW on the other foot. It’s interesting to see libs cry foul so loudly, so often. Most of the time over the same tactics and methods that were used by the demons when they controlled Raleigh. I’d like to give the Republicans in Raleigh a chance to see if their long-term plans are more successful than the long term plans of the demons ever could be. The chances of Republican plans showing positive results: possible. The chances of socialist plans from the demon party every showing positive results? Zero. Socialism has it’s doom built right into it. Stealing money from producers can only last so long. Eventually you run out of producers to steal from. Socialism collapses. Demons jump out of windows at the top of very tall buildings. If we could only find a way to shorten the path between now & the jumping part, without the destruction of the economy …

    • Richard Bunce says:

      An extension of this then is that the slow holding action that is being fought against the inevitable growth of government, after all a candidate who offers government services/benefits to large groups of voters to be paid for by other smaller groups of voters is a hard equation to beat, is just prolonging the pain and delaying the inevitable collapse of that government system. Another strategy would be to hasten it’s collapse and providing some safe haven to the minority who see the threat. Reminds me of the central theme of a popular book.

  2. Richard Bunce says:

    Chris, Chicken Little called, he said he is tired of you horning in on his act. “Dangerous”? For government bureaucrats maybe.