Published June 30, 2022

By Capitol Broadcasting Company

14 months ago -- the N.C. House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass House Bill 103 – a bill to regulate consumer contracts. On Sept. 8 that same year the N.C. Senate also unanimously voted to pass House Bill 103.  A few days later the House disagreed with some of the Senate changes and the bill was sent to a conference committee to work out the differences.

On Monday, June 27, 10 months after the original conference committee was appointed, the original conference committee members were dismissed and several were replaced with the legislature’s key budget committee leaders.

The next day without any public meetings, open debate or hearings, legislative leaders announced they’d arrived at a $27.9 billion budget. The bill no longer even mentions consumer contracts – the issue legislators were led to believe they’d voted on more than a year ago.

Legislators now know they really voted for a budget that didn’t even exist when they cast their votes.  There will be no chance to modify the bill, cut anything out or add anything in.  Just to either accept or reject the spending plan.

It is a budget more noteworthy for what isn’t in it than what is. Most significantly two critical issues:

  • Assuring EVERY North Carolina child has access to a quality education, as promised by the State Constitution.
  • Expanding Medicaid, almost entirely paid for by the federal government, so more than 600,000 citizens can get access to health care.

North Carolina remains just one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid. In fact, state law prohibits expansion without the express authorization from the General Assembly.  Since 2014, North Carolina has rejected $17.4 billion in federal funds while the state’s taxpayers have been supporting Medicaid expansion in 39 other states.

While it seemed, just a few weeks ago, that there might be a real opportunity to approve Medicaid expansion, it now is stuck on a legislative treadmill – with a state Senate and House having passing separate and competing plans with the House calling for more study.

Legislators have been able to concoct state Constitutional amendments and move them onto the ballot before voters in mere days. Nearly a decade of denial and refusal to act when Medicaid expansion is truly a life-and-death matter -- doesn’t call for more study but action.

A budget that doesn’t include Medicaid expansion is a budget of neglect.

And, what of keeping the Constitution’s promise – a right -- to provide every child, regardless of where they live, access to a quality education.

The budget does provide some more money for education – but for those kids who go to private schools. It boosts funding for private school vouchers by $56 million to $150.5 million next year while loosening the financial requirements.  This current school year, taxpayers spent $79.4 million.

The legislature ignores a court order calling on the state to provide funding for a comprehensive remedial plan worked out by the plaintiffs and defendants in the Leandro case that would boost teacher training, reduce class size, provide more classroom resources as well as other basic education needs now lacking in many public schools.

The legislature’s refusal to act has kept this case spinning in the state’s courts for about a quarter-century. There’s yet another hearing on the matter set before the state’s Supreme Court in August.

The legislature needs to do what’s right for ALL the children of the state and get off of the legal treadmill and commit to obey the court order and fully fund providing every child a quality education.

Legislative leaders can obfuscate and talk all they want about what is in their budget plan.

But it is all overshadowed by the remarkable neglect of the needs of North Carolina’s people.