Legislators focus too much on tax cuts. Time to care about quality of services too

Published August 3, 2023

By Capitol Broadcasting Company

Students are headed back to class in a few days not knowing how they’ll be getting to their schools as school systems across North Carolina don’t have enough bus drivers to cover the routes.

When these students get to school, they may not have a permanent teacher in their classrooms. There are at least 5,000 vacant teaching positions across the state.

Prisons throughout the state are facing critical shortages in personnel – a nearly 30% vacancy rate -- raising justifiable worries about prison safety for the public and in correctional facilities --those who work there and those who are incarcerated.

The state Commerce Department, which provides economic development services and crucial employment assistance to workers seeking employment has nearly a quarter of itsjobs unfilled.

Elaine Marshall, North Carolina’s Secretary of State, said Tuesday her office is “on the brink of a crisis” with a massive increase in new business creations but a drastic shortage of personnel to process the work.

The state Department of Transportation, which includes the Division of Motor Vehicles that handles car and truck registrations and drivers licensing, has a 21% vacancy rate.

At the state Department of Health and Human Services – burdened with dealing with the COVID pandemic and tasked with implementing Medicaid Expansion – if the legislature ever sends Gov. Roy Cooper a budget worthy of his signature – has nearly 27% of itspositions vacant.

Overall, the state has 23.1% of its jobs unfilled – up 3.5 percentage points from a year ago. Eight state agencies have vacancy rates at or above 20%. State agency vacancy rate information can be found here.

When it comes to taking care of business, state legislators make sure no one gets better service than they provide themselves. While legislators have been away from Raleigh for much of July, they’ve still collected their daily living expenses – at least $1.3 million.

It’s August – a month after other government agencies are required by law to have their budgets done.

But local school districts don’t know how much they’ll have to pay bus drivers to get students into their classrooms or even there will be teachers to guide the students when they do get to school. State and local agencies, that rely upon state funding don’t know how much money they’ll have to run crucial programs and provide critical services or pay the people who make them function.

The unfortunate reality is that the leaders of the General Assembly don’t seem to care about the delivery of government services. There’s no expectation of excellence or quality.

The impact of this state of neglect goes beyond the current workforce vacancy crisis.

Little is being done to make sure there’s a strong pipeline – both for the private and public sectors – of workers who will have the abilities to learn critical job skills.

Legislators need to be in Raleigh, doing the jobs they were elected – and are paid – to do. Pass a budget that provides for a quality workforce with salaries and benefits that make public service a worthy career option not a sacrifice.

More significantly, take effective action to fill the gaping vacancies in jobs that provide critical services to North Carolinians – whether at the DMV office, public health department or employment services.

Show North Carolinians their legislators believe in a government that serves all the people, not one that just doles out imprudent tax breaks to the powerful and politically connected.