By now, readers here have likely seen the News & Observers reporting on Amendment 15 to the Senate budget bill from Senator Brent Jackson that was passed in the early hours of the morning and is included in the final budget. This Amendment uses surgical precision to carve out funding for certain communities—for educational and job training programs and arts initiatives– to fund services to address the opiod epidemic.
The broader context, of course, is that the state has the dollars to make an investment in public health programming, training of police and public safety personnel and the delivery of courts services in the face of rising caseloads and the loss of drug treatment courts and fund education.
Rather than put dollars to use in addressing a public health crisis, the North Carolina Senate proposed to give it away to the wealthy taxpayers and big companies of the state in the form of another round of tax cuts. The Senate budget includes $324 million in tax cuts for the upcoming fiscal year and stashes another $263 million in the state’s savings reserve.
Our legislative leaders consistently remark on the revenue being collected above what was projected. Time and again, however, they refuse to put those dollars to use for the public good but choose to benefit very few.
It is worth noting the amendments during the third reading that seemed to prompt the recess and final amendment from Senate leadership. None of these were debated fully but most, through a procedural motion, were tabled upon introduction. Just one amendment was voted on. Taken together, they present strong contrasts. These amendments show the broad public benefit that our collective resources could be put to—from addressing a public health crisis to ensuring that teachers and state employees have a wage that reflects what it takes to make ends meet to funding modern-day infrastructure in rural communities. Their proposed funding sources are varied but consistently demonstrate that our state has the dollars now and can raise the revenue fairly to support these priorities.
The presentation and debate of the Senate budget by leaders may seek to obscure the impacts of their choice to cut taxes for the wealthy and profitable corporations. The picture of just what choices were made should be crystal clear to us all.
Tabled Amendments during Third Reading of Senate Budget
|Amendment 9 (Lowe)||Fund public health, public safety and court programs to address opiod epidemic
|Keeps the tax rate on income over $1 million at the current 5.499%|
|Amendment 11 (McKissick)
|Fund teacher stipend, increase teacher pay||Sets the income tax rate at 6.8 percent on income over $500,000, the income of the top 1 percent of taxpayers in the state|
|Amendment 12 (Waddell)||Fund retiree cost of living adjustment and plan for future increases||Uses revenue collections that the Senate would have committed to savings|
|Amendment 13 (Smith-Ingram)||Fund statewide broadband access||Uses dollars the Senate put in savings|
|Amendment 14 (Robinson)
|Fund scholarships for NC high school graduates to attend Community College||Reduces appropriations for school vouchers|