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Fitzsimon: GOP budget already leaving a painful legacy

By Chris Fitzsimon

Columnist

3 Comments | Leave a Comment

It has been five weeks since the General Assembly gave final approval to the Republican budget by overriding Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto. And it’s been just three weeks since the beginning of the fiscal year when the budget took effect.

But already many of the ramifications of the budget decisions are becoming clear across the state. And not just in the well publicized layoffs of teachers and teacher assistants in places like Cumberland County where school officials recently told 137 teachers assistants they were out of a job. That’s on top of 90 teacher jobs already lost there and another 46 school support positions eliminated.

And it’s not just the $100 million slashed from the early childhood programs Smart Start and More at Four in the next two years, cuts that are making news with the ruling by Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning that lawmakers’ budget decisions deny at-risk 4-year-olds the sound, basic education that the state constitution guarantees them.

The cuts are far more pervasive than firing teachers and denying thousands of children the help they need to succeed in school.

This weekend the Winston-Salem Journal reported that budget cuts mean fewer services to victims of crime as they are navigating their way through the court system.

The cuts to the judicial system also mean the end of many of the state’s nationally recognized drug treatment courts that put nonviolent offenders into intensive treatment programs instead of prison cells, saving the state more than $20,000 per offender and giving people a chance to turn their lives around.

No bright high school seniors who want to become teachers will have the chance to apply for a college scholarship from the N.C Teaching Fellows program this year. The budget eliminates the program.

The Raleigh Police Department will have to be responsible for patrolling the state government complex at night as the budget slashes the funding of the State Capitol Police in half. The News & Observer reports that the additional expense to the city of Raleigh is roughly the same amount as the budget cut to the State Capitol Police Department.

The cuts to community colleges and the university system that will cost thousands of faculty and staff members their jobs have been reported several times, but there has been little attention paid to the specifics, like the reduction to services like the Basic Skills Plus Program at community colleges that helps adults without a high school diploma acquire the skills they need to find a job.

Lawmakers like to talk about how important quality teachers are to public education, but not many Republicans are mentioning the $53 million the budget slashes in teacher development and mentoring programs. The young teachers left in the classroom this fall are on their own.

WRAL-TV reported last week that deep cuts to the Forest Service have left the state scrambling to find enough money to battle forest fires this summer.

There are plenty more examples of what this year’s budget will do to communities across the state and many of the cuts are still to come, especially in the Department of Health and Human Services where officials may have to end Medicaid services to seniors and people with a disability.

Republicans leaders ran for office last year promising that they could cut taxes and balance the budget by simply eliminating waste in state government and reordering priorities.

After just a few weeks of experience with their budget in place we now have a good idea of what those priorities are and what they are not.

Their refusal to go along with Gov. Perdue’s proposal to leave  3/4 of a cent of the temporary sales tax in place means the average North Carolinian has an extra 17 cents in their pocket every day. That’s what the leaders of the House and Senate cared most about, cutting the sales tax to keep their pledge to right-wing anti-government groups.

Not nearly as important to them were services to crime victims, resources to fight forest fires, helping bright students become teachers, helping people find jobs, keeping nonviolent people out of prison, even protecting state buildings and state property. Not to mention teachers in the classroom or 4-year-olds getting the help they need.

It’s quite a budget legacy the Republicans are creating for themselves this fiscal year. And we are only three weeks in.

Chris Fitzsimon is director of NC Policy Watch

Comments

Stop believing we need a welfare state....

There is a very easy way to ensure the NC budget is in the black....stop giving away valuable tax dollars to people who abuse the system. Stop handing out money to "baby mommas" who are 26 years old with a litter of children and no way to support them. Stop giving out unemployment benefits to those who choose not to work and use the money to pay for their next six pack. Stop providing a free education for those who do not want to take advantage of it and whose parents do not care if their child even shows up for class. Contrary to popular belief, a free education is a privilege not a right. Stop giving food stamps to those who buy groceries for 4 other people and who load their take into a brand new BMW or Escalade. Stop handing out free medical care for every illegal alien who shows up at an emergency room with a cold. Stop giving free housing to those who have a 60" flat screen with a surround system and every video game system known to man. Take the money you would be handing out and hire a fraud and abuse division of social services. This state would be drowning in money if people would be held to the rules of receiving these benefits.

Who Does The 17 Cents Belong To?

Cutting the temporary sales tax leaves me 17 cents a day more in my wallet that I'm not giving to the government for them to decide how to spend. If the gov't is going to spend the money on programs I'd rather my 17 cents a day remain in my own community and I be the one who makes the decision who or what program has the greatest need. Without the temporary sales tax I now have an additional amount to donate to the program of my choice. It feels good to have more control (ever how slight YOU view it) over the money I work so hard for. I say thank you to the Republicans for eliminating the sales tax that was suppose to be "temporary" to begin with. Every time the gov't uses the word temporary and tax in the same sentence I shudder. Democrats promised tax payers "temporary" and you're criticizing Republicans for holding them to their promise? Jeeez

Can you handle the truth?

Explain how the Governor's budget, less than 2% more than the budget that passed, would have been sooooo different? Can you explain that the real problem with this year's budget is that the Democrats in control of the last budget spent moneys to fund programs that they knew was federal stimulus money that would not be forthcoming this year instead of responsibly facing what moneys would be available beyond just that year? Would you like to tell the truth about the fact that several hundred million in cuts to this years budget were reoccuring cuts established by the last Democrat controlled budget-that the Republican controlled budget actually added only about 1/3 more to that number? Would you like to tell how much your so-called 17cents figure actually totalled, wasn't it over a billion dollars that you wanted taxpayers to hand over to government to spend more and that a huge majority of North Carolinians polled believe government should not have received or spent that kind of additional money? Spin, spin, spin to justify an out-of-control, oversized, cradle to grave dependency on government.

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