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School-deskAs the House and the Senate hammer out their respective budgets and set spending levels for next two years, the editorial board at the Greenville Daily Reflector sharply criticizes recent efforts to divert money away from public education.

Here’s an excerpt from Thursday’s paper:

‘Money alone will not solve the ills of public education in North Carolina, but it does provide the resources needed for schools to succeed. It helps local districts attract and keep quality teachers and lower class sizes. It ensures at-risk children can enroll in early-education programs. And it allows technology purchases vital in the modern workplace.

Shamefully, Raleigh stands poised to divert funding desperately needed for public education. The Senate budget uses lottery revenue promised to schools to help offset tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest residents. GOP leaders want to greatly expand the number of charter schools, going so far as to propose those institutions not be governed by the state Board of Education. And a bill to create tuition vouchers for qualifying children would see taxpayers help fund private schools. Read More

Members of the House Finance Committee yesterday made the House tax plan even more expensive, as just noted by my colleague.

The committee removed the $25,000 cap on the amount taxpayers can deduct for charitable contributions, mortgage interest, and local property taxes. The tax plan still means significant tax cuts for the top 5 percent, and it would further slash investments in things that help our economy, like our neighborhood schools and world-class universities.

The committee changes would reduce revenues by $525 million per year, bringing the total cost of the House tax plan to $864.4 million per year once fully implemented. Read More

greenwayI don’t know if I can take more of these buried anti-health gems in the NC Senate’s budget, but here’s another from my friends at the NC Alliance for Health.  The Senate eliminates $1.2 million in the NC Department of Transportation budget for greenway trails, already an underfunded program.  Even this $1.2 million in state money allows NC to get $4.5 million in matching funds to build more bike and pedestrian trails all over the state.  Just for comparison $1.2 million is less than what it costs to build one mile of highway in NC.  Greenways have a positive effect on real estate prices and home sales, in addition to being nice places to keep healthy.  This is yet another budget cut that seems more ideological than anything else.

Rep. Deborah Ross leaves the NC House this weekend to become the general counsel with the Triangle Transit Authority.

The six-term lawmaker joins us on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon Sunday to discuss the state budget, school vouchers, and offer a bit of advice to the current legislative leadership:

“The more that a legislator focuses on making the institution better, the better the state is. I just caution the current majority that the more they think about themselves, the less they are thinking about North Carolina,” said Rep. Ross.

To hear an excerpt from the radio interview, click below.

Former House member Grier Martin will succeed Ross.
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Today in the News and Observer I detail yet another one of these crazy changes hidden deep in the GOP budget recently passed by the NC Senate. This one is a doozy—it kicks off pregnant women who currently get Medicaid and tells them to go buy private insurance. A half-hearted attempt at political cover is provided by saying that somehow (it’s unworkable) the state will pay part of the private premium if these lower income women qualify. However, under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid was supposed to be expanded, not cut, an expansion already rejected by the NC Senate. The latest cynical attempt to attack “Obamacare” just doesn’t work and it ignores the great bipartisan legacy of our state’s efforts to attack our awful infant mortality rate problem:

Back in 1989, shortly after news that North Carolina had the highest infant mortality rate of any state in the nation, Republican Gov. Jim Martin created a task force to seek solutions to this national embarrassment after he already had been pushing for changes to address the problem. Solutions championed by Martin included expanding Medicaid to many more pregnant women in 1987.