Commentary, News

$750.

That’s the pay increase state workers and most teachers can expect this fiscal year. Budget negotiators ended the suspense Wednesday in announcing the one-time bonuses. (Starting teachers can expect to earn $35,000 annually.)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson now wants lawmakers to finish the rest of the budget so public school districts know how much money they will have for personnel, textbooks and digital resources.

“This is a big year of faith…faith that the General Assembly will come through with adequate resources,” said Atkinson.

“Most of the schools are moving forward as if they have a budget. They have no other option since we have nearly 1.6 million children in our schools and we have about 17,000 new students to join North Carolina’s public school records.”

Dr. Atkinson joins Chris Fitzsimon on News & Views this weekend to talk about the impact of the latest budget delay, the need for continued investments in professional development, and the challenges of teacher recruitment and retention.

On Thursday the NC House and Senate passed a third continuing resolution, giving themselves until September 18th to work out spending priorities in the $21.74 billion state budget.

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Commentary

Scott Lemieux of The Guardian has written a fine article about yesterday’s horrific murder-suicide tragedy in Virgina that’s worth your time. Here’s one of the best parts:

“It is true – as apologists for the status quo will be sure to point out – that it is impossible to know whether today’s murder specifically could have been prevented by a more stringent gun control regime, let alone by one characterized exclusively by background checks. But on a more systematic level, the result of our lack of substantive, internationally comparable gun control is entirely clear: the US is not only an international outlier in its lack of gun control, it is also a massive outlier in terms of firearm violence. The ease of access to firearms clearly causes large numbers of unnecessary deaths by homicide, suicide, and accident.

Thus, the staggering human toll of gun violence in the US is not just a random coincidence; it is the result of political choices.

Which policies could reduce the huge number of mass killings in the US are not a mystery: after 35 people were killed in Tasmania in 1996, Australia’s conservative government enacted sweeping gun control measures. The result was that both homicides and suicides by gun were immediately and sharply reduced, and there have been no mass killings in the country since. Conversely, there have been 885 mass killings in the United States since December 2012, when a gunman killed 20 elementary school students at the Newtown Elementary School in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.”

Meanwhile, Ezra Klein has more on Vox about some of the lessons we might glean from the Australian experience.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Legislators approved a third budget extension today as the House and Senate leadership continue efforts to iron out a final budget deal. The existing temporary budget, known officially as a Continuing Resolution, is set to expire on Monday. If signed by the Governor, the newest extension will keep public programs and services operating through September 18th, which is 79 days after the original budget deadline of July 1st.

The third budget extension will keep state government operating exactly as the second stop-gap measure approved earlier this month. I outlined those details in a previous blog post.

Leadership in the House and Senate chambers already agreed to a topline spending target of $21.735 billion for the 2016 fiscal year that runs through June 30, 2016. That means state investments as a part of the economy would remain below the 45—year average, impeding the ability to restore previous cuts and make progress in a significant way. Read More

Commentary

A one-time, $750 “bonus.” That’s what most North Carolina state employees will get as a “pay increase” as a result of the new budget deal at the General Assembly. That’s about $10 per week after taxes.

Not much, we know, but if the state Senate has its way, such a “raise” may soon seem downright extravagant. That’s because the new constitutional amendments the Senate has proposed to place on the state ballot next year would actually make such a “raise” all but impossible.

As this morning’s lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer explains thoroughly, the so-called “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” or “TABOR” would all but end state government’s ability to address the needs of the citizenry — much less provide meaningful raises to public employees. Indeed, even with this year’s pathetic pay bonus, spending will actually exceed the limits that TABOR would put permanently in place.

As the N&O editorial  puts it:

“It’s absolutely astonishing that despite the failure of TABOR in Colorado, stubborn state Senate Republicans have pushed on with it, almost defiantly ignoring common sense and the business community. Why have many other states considered it and then reconsidered it? Because, after that first flush of thinking it’s a great conservative idea and run-on issue, cooler heads realize it hasn’t worked.”

Let’s hope the cooler heads emerge and take charge here in North Carolina very soon.
Commentary, News

If you weren’t able to attend NC Policy Watch’s Crucial Conversation with the Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina, that full program is now available online.

This week’s event featured watchdog Bob Hall discussing the large and potentially illegal campaign contributions from individuals affiliated with the controversial “sweepstakes” industry to some of North Carolina’s top elected officials.

Please watch and then share this special presentation as Hall discusses his findings, what Democracy NC is asking prosecutors to do, and the overall state of political corruption in North Carolina politics today.

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