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It’s been a tough week for proponents of austerity economics—the misguided notion that government spending cuts and debt reduction magically produce economic growth. First, a team of respected mainstream economists completely discredited one of the foundational studies supporting the claim that excessive public debt holds back economic growth. Then, the International Monetary Fund—formerly a bastion of austerity economics—warned the United States that its budget cuts (including sequestration) had gone too far and would likely damage the nation’s economic growth.

Essentially, these developments repudiate the idea that high levels of public debt hurt economic growth along with the fantasy that cutting government spending help economic growth. Altogether, it’s been a bad week for austerity, as we can see below the fold….

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State Budget Director Art Pope wasted no time getting to work after Gov. Pat McCrory was sworn in privately on Jan.5, 2013, reminding all state department and agency heads, in a memo dated Jan.7, that they had until Jan. 11 to submit two percent budget reduction options to his office.

As Governor McCrory begins the 2013-15 budget reparation, these reduction options are needed to initiate the budget preparation process. Agencies that did not submit the requested 2% reductions, must submit them to the Office of State Budget and Management by January 11, 2013. Agencies that wish to review and revise the reductions submitted to this office may submit revised reductions by January 11, 2013.

That’s not good news for the state courts, whose budget has already been “cut to the bone” over the past four years, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts John Smith said in an interview last week.  The system is operating at a stress level higher than any he’s seen during his 30 years of involvement there, and added the following in response to the request for reduction options:

Simply put, the Judicial Branch cannot sustain another budget reduction at this level without sending people home. My highest priority at this time is protecting our workforce against another reduction and the damaging effect such a reduction would have on citizens trying to access justice.

Among the items that Smith ranks as urgent are the reinstatement of at least 28 magistrate positions;  restoration of the court employee step pay plan; and approximately two million dollars in funding to cover additional interpreter services, expert witness fees and the costs of the Racial Justice Act.

In addition, Smith said, the courts need to fill approximately 700 to 800 positions — superior court clerks, district court judges, additional magistrates, assistant district attorneys and support staff — in order to meet current workload demand.

 

 

Our story about budget cuts is on the NC Policy Watch main page. To accompany that piece, here is a Q&A with Philip Price, chief financial officer for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Policy Watch: With three years of budget cuts now amounting to nearly $700 million, what has been the impact on schools throughout the state?

Price: They’ve been challenged. They have to come up with ways of addressing the large negative reserve that’s in place. They’ve had to increase class sizes. Initially there was a significant reduction in support personnel, your clerical (positions) and custodians and, for that matter, teacher assistants. In other words, your non-certified personnel. In the first couple of years, the cuts were predominantly in those areas, and then as the cuts continued, they had to move beyond those particular areas and start hitting into the instructional personnel…. So they’ve been challenged, and they’ve had to deal with those challenges by making some tough decision at the local level.

At least 45 percent of the budget is associated with classroom teachers, that’s why it such a large percentage to have to consider. If I told you to cut your budget and 50 percent of your household budget is food, you’d probably have a difficult time coming up with reductions without touching your food budget. Read More

The folks on Right-wing Avenue like to tell us that all is well in North Carolina’s K-12 education system after the last few years of budget cuts.

Well, actually, that’s not true; they like to tell us that everything is terrible and that we need to privatize and “voucherize” the whole thing, but that the cuts they’ve advocated and imposed over the last few years have had nothing to do with any of the problems.

Well, here’s the truth: Read More

Be sure to check out this morning’s edition of At the schoolhouse door from Chris Hill at the NC Justice Center’s Education and Law Project in which he uses the recent scandal surrounding a Wake County school board member as a starting point to discuss an even more troubling education scandal.

“While the story about Goldman is salacious, nothing is more scandalous than what North Carolina students face after its last rounds of state budget cuts.” 

Click here to read the entire post..