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Democrats react to scant House budget details

House Minority Leader Darren Jackson (D-Wake), flanked by his Democratic colleagues, responds to what details are available in the GOP crafted House budget plan.

Democrats in the N.C. House of Representatives responded to the House’s draft budget Thursday afternoon — or at least what they’ve seen of it.

The full budget won’t be rolled out until Tuesday, after the Memorial Day weekend. But some details from various sections were discussed in House committees Thursday.

It’s not how things should be done, said the House Minority Leader, Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake). But without the chance to see the full budget until the day the House is expected to vote on it, people should start contacting their representatives now.

“We’re going into a holiday weekend and this is the time for members to hear from their constituents – be seen out at holidays things, events that are happening,” Jackson said. ” We’ll come back, it’ll be rolled out on Tuesday morning and we’ll vote. So this will be the people back home’s only opportunity to speak to their representatives and inform him or her how they feel about the budget.”

Jackson admitted that what has come out about the House’s budget plan is an improvement over the Senate’s – but overall, it wasn’t that encouraging.

“The House budget’s top line numbers are the same as the Senate’s and significantly short of the governor’s [proposed budget],” Jackson said. “That means there are missed opportunities in this budget – missed opportunities to invest in education, work force development and job creation, especially in our rural communities.”

Jackson said the top line numbers also suggest more tax cut proposals rolled out next week.

“Tax cuts, at least in the past, have been 200 times larger for millionaires than they have been for families at the medium level of income,” Jackson said. “That is the Republican record on tax cuts the last few years.”

Budgets are all about priorities, Jackson said – and Gov. Cooper’s budget proposal showed emphasis on the right priorities without fee or tax increases. The proposed House budget, crafted by the GOP majority? Not so much, Jackson said.

Governor’s Cooper had more money for community colleges, Jackson said, which are a generator of jobs and help people in both urban and rural communities better themselves.  But the House budget, like the Senate’s, does not include funding for the NC Growth Scholarships that would have allowed North Carolinians to attend community college for free – a move other states are now adopting. Additional job training through community colleges aren’t funded either, Jackson said.

Rural job growth isn’t a priority in the House budget, Jackson said – as is obvious beyond the failure to adequately fund community colleges. The house budget doesn’t expand broadband access or NC Job Ready Sites either, Jackson said – and does very little to address the opioid crisis.

“A single pilot project in Wilmington,” Jackson said of the anti-opioid funding in the budget proposal. “That’s great for the Wilmington area and I’m sure that program will be a model for the future – but what about the rest of the state?”

Cooper’s budget called for $12 million for health services and $2 million for law enforcement to combat the problem, Jackson said. Tax cuts shouldn’t come before that sort of essential spending on such a deadly problem, Jackson said.

Jackson and other Democratic representatives on hand also criticized proposed K-12 education spending.

Though some of the infamous 3 a.m. cuts to education programs proposed in the Senate budget  have been restored under the House plan, Jackson said no one but the Republican House members know exactly which line item was cut to restore that funding.

Since the amount of spending is the same in both budget plans, Jackson said, every sigh of relief at a program or funding stream restored will be followed by a mad dash to find the cut that made that possible.

That’s going to be the work of reporters, citizens and House members next week, Jackson said.

Once the House has approved their budget, leaders from the House and Senate will confer on a compromise between their two plans. That compromise will go to the governor for his approval or veto.

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