Read the Fine Print: Special Provisions

Read the Fine Print: Special Provisions, Uncategorized

North Carolina’s wintery blast may be dominating local news coverage, but it’s far from the only environmental story that needs to be on your radar this week.

Make time today to read Policy Watch reporter Sharon McCloskey’s latest piece –  Reverberations of a coal ash spill – that clearly explains how we got to the Dan River coal ash problem.  Rob Schofield explains in his Weekly Briefing – The tip of a very large and dangerous iceberg – why North Carolina needs a complete 180 on its environmental policy.

If you missed it earlier this week, take six minutes to watch Rachel Maddow’s segment on the coal ash spill and the state’s pattern of blocking environmentalists from challenging the utility company in court:

Finally, mark February 27th on your calendar. That’s the date for our next Crucial Conversation luncheon in Raleigh with very special guests Amy Adams of the group Appalachian Voices and State Rep. Pricey Harrison. Register here.

NC Budget and Tax Center, Read the Fine Print: Special Provisions

Yesterday, the Senate passed a state budget that deserves careful examination, not only to the funding changes but the policy changes that are quietly tucked in as well. What we generally call “the budget” always contains two documents—1) the money report and 2) the special provisions.

The money report is what you would consider to be the budget—the listing of funding levels for various programs and services by line item. The special provisions are the accompanying document that theoretically clarifies the money decisions. It offers policy guidance to administrative agencies that are charged with implementing the funding changes, and it offers guidance to how federal dollars should be spent. Read More

Read the Fine Print: Special Provisions


This article is part of a series lifting the veil on the numerous and profound changes to vital North Carolina programs and services made in the lengthy and wonky special provisions of the budget. We’re starting with the special provisions in the House budget and will continue when the Senate releases its version of the budget.

Special provision in focus: Health & Human Services

This special provision and the policy changes included can be categorized as:

A. Job Killer

B. Program/service elimination by disguise

C. “We didn’t do it!”, i.e. avoid responsibility for eliminating services by making state agency staff do it

D. Just plain sticking it to all those [insert type] people

E. All of the above. Read More

Read the Fine Print: Special Provisions

This article is part of a series lifting the veil on the numerous and profound changes to vital North Carolina programs and services made in the lengthy and wonky special provisions of the budget.  We’re starting with the special provisions in the House budget and will continue when the Senate releases its version of the budget.

Special provision in focus: Justice & Public Safety

This special provisions and the policy changes included can be categorized as:

  • Just plain sticking it to all those [insert type] people

Special provisions attached to the budget suggested by the House budget subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety outline over $80 million in new and increased court fees that are intended to offset state appropriations to the legal system. That’s a lot of dough by any standards, but the real kicker is that those dollars may exist mostly in the minds of legislators, not the wallets of those in the justice system. It’s completely unrealistic to assume that raising the statutory fees will result in 100% of the fee revenue forecasted. As anyone who has worked in or around the court system knows, not every plaintiff and defendant is flush with cash these days.

And talk about kicking people when they’re down – the special provisions suggest we should double the court fee assessed on foreclosures, from $150 to $300 per foreclosure. Yes, you heard that right. As we’re mucking our way out of a deep, dark recession caused mostly by wild financial speculation on mortgages and irresponsible lenders, our legislators have the gall to suggest that North Carolinians who are in the heartwrenching process of losing their homes should shoulder more of the cost of providing core government services.

Of course, we’ll probably be told it will all work out to our advantage because they’ll be cutting corporate taxes as part of the budget. So, the banks that wrote the mortgage to the family now in foreclosure will get a tax cut, and the family losing their house will just have to go a little bit deeper into debt than they already were thanks to the court’s new, higher foreclosure fee. Why would anyone object to THAT scenario?

Read the Fine Print: Special Provisions

 

This article is part of a series lifting the veil on the numerous and profound changes to vital North Carolina programs and services made in the lengthy and wonky special provisions of the budget.  We’re starting with the special provisions in the House budget and will continue when the Senate releases its version of the budget.

Special provisions in focus: K-12 Education

These special provisions and the policy changes included can be categorized as:

  1. A. Job Killers
  2. B. “We didn’t do it!”, i.e. pass the buck and the tough decisions to the locals

Governor Perdue and the NC House leadership have both claimed to have fully funded teaching positions in their recent budget proposals despite cutting hundreds of millions from state funding for public schools.  In the case of the governor’s budget, both classroom teachers and teaching assistants are protected from direct cuts, while the House leadership only protects direct funding for classroom teachers.

Despite such claims of protecting teachers from cuts, however, neither the governor’s budget proposal nor the House leadership recommendations would prevent layoffs among teachers and other valued public school personnel like guidance counselors, teaching assistants, and assistant principals.  In fact, not counting the resultant additional local cuts, the state Department of Public Instruction estimates that more than 12,200 public school employees, including almost 9,000 teaching assistants and more than 460 teachers, will lose their jobs under the recommendations of the House leadership.

The gap between claims and on-the-ground reality lies partly in the complexity of North Carolina’s formulas for allocating state funds to public schools and partly in pushing hard decisions onto local officials.  North Carolina allocates state funds to local schools based on a multitude of allotment formulas, only one of which is designated as the allotment for classroom teachers.  While the House leadership did not cut this allotment, several allotments that the leadership did choose to cut also fund classroom teachers, but at the discretion of local school districts.

Over the past two years, state policymakers have required local school districts to identify more than $300 million in cuts to school personnel and expenses and refund the “savings” to the state.  As a result of these flexible cuts and declining local revenues, local school districts have cut the number of teachers by more than 4,200, the number of teaching assistants by nearly 3,700, and other positions by more than 2,700.  Over the same two years, increased federal support to North Carolina public schools through the Recovery Act, most of which will run out by the end of the fiscal year, enabled public schools to retain more than 5,700 teachers and nearly 1,300 teaching assistants that otherwise may have been cut.

The House leadership recommended increasing these local discretionary cuts by $42 million and $106 million each year of the upcoming biennium while also eliminating funding teacher assistants in grades 2 and 3 and cutting funding for school administration and other non-teaching positions like guidance counselors, custodians, and clerical support.

Requiring additional discretionary cuts while also cutting funding for teaching assistants, administration and non-teaching positions, textbooks and supplies, and transportation will make it virtually impossible for local school districts to avoid cuts to teachers.  Making matters worse, many of the areas slated for new cuts have already been cut as part of local school districts’ discretionary cuts over the past two years.  Thus, school districts that cut teacher assistants in grades two and three in response to the required discretionary cuts will be forced to find new discretionary cuts.

Despite the tangled web of allotment formulas and discretionary cuts, the outcome of the budget recommendations is clear:  the House leadership will claim to have protected teachers and teacher assistants in early grades without raising revenue, but they’ll simply have pushed the hard decisions down to local officials to make the choice between eliminating teachers and teaching assistants or raising local taxes.