Most of the blame for the decision by legislative leaders to slam the door again in the face of the survivors of the state’s horrific eugenics program has been placed on Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. And he deserves a lot of it.
Berger said there was not enough support in the Senate to include the $11 million for compensation for the eugenics victims in the final version of the budget. But it didn’t appear he was too thrilled about the idea either, or he could have made sure it was part of the final agreement.
But part of this is the fault of House Speaker Thom Tillis too. Tillis certainly deserves credit for championing the issue and even taking to the House floor to speak out for it, an unusual thing for a House Speaker to do. But compensation for the victims must never have been his top priority, his must-have provision in final budget negotiations.
Berger made education reform his crusade this session. He sponsored the bill, he spoke out for it on the floor of the Senate and in committees. And most of his reform package, ill-advised as it may be, made it into the final budget agreement.
Tillis made eugenics compensation his crusade and spoke out for it on the House floor, but it never apparently rose to the level of something that he was willing to hold up the budget over, a non-negotiable item the way Berger’s education reform plan seemed to be.
Maybe Tillis’ influence was weakened by the scandals in his office. Maybe his admirable support for compensation puts him in the minority of his own party. Almost half of House Republicans voted against it on the floor after all.
Whatever the reason, several thousand living victims of the eugenics program have again been denied any compensation for the physical and emotional abuse the state of North Carolina inflicted on them.
There is no excuse for that, especially not in a $20 billion budget that finds money for private cooking schools and tax cuts for millionaires.