N.C. lawmakers resort to trickery for budget that’s bad for our state

It appears that House leaders couldn’t get their way through debate and compromise, so rather than coming to the table with everyone, they used trickery to override the Governor’s veto of a budget that fails our state and every North Carolinian. Only 64 out of 120 House Representatives were present this morning when the vote was called after Democrats were told there would be no vote and some were at commemoration of the historic 9/11 attacks.

A final budget should lay out a vision for where our state is headed and how it plans to get there. It is the single most important policy decision that legislators make each year. It is a statement of their priorities and a marker of their stewardship of our tax dollars.

Legislators in our democracy are tasked with the tough work of negotiating those priorities and finalizing the budget. After failing at that work, legislators took the extreme step once again of changing the rules of the game.

The benefits of those changes will help very few in the near term and no one in the long-term.

This budget, which was vetoed by the governor and overridden by only about half our Representatives — which will go into effect should the Senate also override — fails to recognize the reality of a state that is growing apart economically and civically.

Where one lives in North Carolina determines whether there are jobs available for all those looking for work, whether there is quality child-care available for working parents, or even how long one will live. Public investments, particularly at the state level, can go a long way to making sure every community can thrive and every person can live a good life and reach their full potential. Despite the national economic expansion, North Carolina has continued to reduce spending as a share of the economy. Lawmakers have effectively dug a hole deeper than any modern-day recession has created in our state’s budget because of the priority that they have given to tax cuts for the wealthy and big companies.

When the Governor presented a counteroffer to legislative leaders after his veto of their inadequate budget, he asked them to prioritize the health of North Carolinians and stop tax cuts for high net worth companies so that greater progress could be made in investing in families and communities.

Legislative leaders rejected that counteroffer, despite the nearly identical priorities it set in all other areas. And with that rejection, day after day, legislative leaders rejected the notion that the well-being of all North Carolinians should be priority of our policymakers.

Operating state government without a final budget is a difficult task, made worse by a decade of under-investment in the services and institutions that serve the people of the state. It has pushed back major policies from being implemented such as the transformation of Medicaid to managed care, stopped efforts to serve more children with child care assistance, and created uncertainty about N.C.’s ability to weather natural disasters. It has meant a host of missed opportunities as our families and communities seek to solidify the foundations that will sustain a brighter future.

Without that collective commitment, we face unfettered acceleration of the inequalities that hold us all back.

There is nothing to be gained by failing to include diverse perspectives in our policymaking. There is everything to lose when our ability to set collective priorities is under threat.

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