Falling Behind in NC

Since the Great Recession and well-into the economic recovery, the state’s commitment to the well-being and safety of North Carolinians has wavered. The current FY2012-13 state budget provides the proof because it falls far short of investing adequately in the health, safety, education, and economic security of families and their children in the state. The budget’s shortcomings in the health and human services (HHS) infrastructure affect North Carolinians at nearly every life stage and can literally impact their longevity and vitality.

HHS funding aims to ensure that the state’s future citizens thrive early, seniors have access to quality and affordable health care, people with disabilities have the supports they need to contribute to their communities, and that food consumed by diners is safe. The HHS budget totals nearly $4.7 billion, making up 23 percent of the total General Fund budget. And, funding for this section of the budget is down by 8.3 percent compared to pre-recession levels (FY2007-08). The figures below highlight the top 3 ways the HHS budget is falling behind anticipated demand for services. Read More

This week has been deemed Education Week by legislative leaders, who have invited superintendents, principals and teachers from across the state to Raleigh to discuss public education issues. As education leaders and teachers share their thoughts and concerns regarding public education, funding has been a key part of that conversation.

With consistent improvement in proficiency rates, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, and graduation rates over the past 20 years, North Carolina has long been recognized for its commitment to public education – both K-12 education and higher education. However, significant cuts made to K-12 and higher education in recent years threaten to erode the leadership position the state has achieved among southern states. As lawmakers work to craft and approve a biennial budget for FY 2014-15, investment in public education will be a central part of the budget debate.

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North Carolina provides a support system for seniors through the Aging and Adult Services Division in the Department of Health and Human Services. Approximately 1 in 10 seniors in North Carolina live in poverty and rely on these supports. Yet, under the House FY2012-13 budget proposal, funding for Aging and Adult Services would decline by approximately 3 percent going back to FY2007-08. This drop in funding would be accompanied by a 24 percent increase in population growth for the adult population 65. Other estimates show the senior population will double over the next 20 years and is the fastest growing population in the state. The state cannot afford to fall behind and underfund services for this growing and valuable community.

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In the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, the Great Recession destroyed hundreds of thousands of North Carolina jobs, driving up unemployment and underemployment even as the national economy entered a formal recovery.  As workers lost their jobs and watched their incomes drop, many also lost their employer-provided health insurance or saw the cost of private health insurance move beyond their reach.  As a result, demand for Medicaid—the Federal-State partnership that provides medical care for low- and middle-income people—exploded, as the number of individuals with sufficiently low incomes to be eligible for the program grew by 27 percent from the first Fiscal Year of the Recession (FY2007-08) through the current Fiscal Year (FY 2012-13).  At the same time as the need for Medicaid exploded, the state decided to reduce the resources available to meet those needs, cutting the Medicaid budget by 6 percent over the same period and requiring patients, doctors, hospitals, and clinics to serve the health care needs of North Carolinians with significantly reduced financial support.

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Despite a contracting economy over the course of the Great Recession, North Carolina has continued to grow. Yet at the same time, state investments in areas vital to the future workforce of the state such as early care and education has plummeted over the last several years.  Funding for programs such as Smart Start, subsidized child care and NC Pre-K (formerly known as More at Four) has obviously completely failed to keep up with demand as the figure above shows.