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Gov. McCrory’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 and respective budgets by the House and Senate include significant cost savings from closing and downsizing various correctional facilities. Savings from these changes total around $14.2 million in both the House and Senate budgets and $14.9 million in the Governor’s budget.

Savings generated from these changes could have been used to promote safer communities across the state.  However, lawmakers went down a different path. For instance, Gov. McCrory advocated for state funding for drug treatment courts to be included in the state’s current fiscal year budget. These courts cost a fraction of the nearly $28,000 it cost to keep individuals in prison. However, the final budget passed last year by state policymakers did not include funding for drug treatment courts.

All three budget proposals for fiscal year 2015 – which begin July 1, 2014 – fail to include funding for drug treatment courts. The House and Senate budgets, however, go further and cut funding for programs that promote fair and equitable access to the justice system and safe communities across the state.

Funding cuts to Justice and Public Safety in the House and Senate budgets include:

  • Elimination of the Access to Civil Justice Fund, which supports the representation of poor North Carolinians in civil cases.
  • Reduction of administration funding for Indigent Defense Services, which in part oversees the provision of legal representation to indigent defendants and others entitled to counsel under North Carolina law.
  • Reduction of administration funding for Administration of the Courts

Due to tax changes enacted last year, state policymakers are constrained in major ways. This is effectively a self-imposed budget challenge. Nevertheless, as demonstrated with choices made within the Justice and Public Safety area of the budget, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Budget writers found revenue by making significant changes to the operations of various correctional facilities as well as by cutting state funding for programs that work to enhance the efficacy of the state’s justice system. These state funding cuts would limit service providers’ ability to assist individuals and families in need to legal representation.

What is clear from all three budgets is that state lawmakers are continuing down a dangerous path of more state funding cuts rather than reinvestment as the state recovers from the Great Recession. One can only hope that as budget writers work to negotiate a final budget for the upcoming 2015 fiscal year, state funding is restored for these programs that were put on the chopping block in the House and Senate budgets.

North Carolina is known for having an appealing quality of life, with communities across the state offering a great place to raise a family and operate a business. Safe and healthy communities play an important role in contributing to this quality of life in what we North Carolinians call home.

Decisions made by state leaders highlight a lagging commitment to enhancing the quality of life within communities across the Tar Heel state. In the current budget, state leaders disregarded Gov. McCrory’s recommendation to provide funding for drug treatment courts, which is a cost-efficient way to provide drug treatment and support to individuals with substance abuse dependencies. State lawmakers did however create “cost savings” by reclassifying certain low-level offenses and allowing them to be punishable by fines instead of jail time – one particular tradeoff is that such defendants will now have convictions on their records despite not having a right to counsel. This could affect their employment prospects and access to other opportunities. Read More

Tired of incessant delays during their flights home caused by the furlough of FAA air controllers, Congress voted last night and this morning to find the money to end the furloughs. About time.

Of course, the controller cuts have been far from the only stupid and counter-productive cuts brought on by that ultimate of inside-the-Beltway ideas/terms: “sequestration.”

Think Progress  has 12 more that you can read by clicking here.

Meanwhile, in a related vein, it seems worth noting that this morning’s editorial cartoon by Dana Summers of Tribune Media Services that appeared in the print edition of Raleigh’s News & Obsever  (you can look at it by clicking here)  is a classic example of what happens when ill-informed people rely on inaccurate and offensive stereotypes as the basis for their “opinions.” Thanks goodness our safety isn’t in the hands of intellectually lazy knuckleheads like Mr. Summers.

Just in from the Budget and Tax Center Center

RALEIGH (March 27, 2013) — Critical federal funding for North Carolina’s schools, health care, clean water, law enforcement, and other key services would be slashed under the federal budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week, according to a new report released today by the non-partisan organization Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Chairman Ryan’s budget would place the burden of deficit reduction squarely on the backs of North Carolina’s low-income and middle class families while providing a windfall in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest individuals,” said Allan Freyer of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. “Another round of deep funding cuts to our schools, public safety, and health would harm our families, communities and economy.”

Congressman Ryan’s budget would cut the part of the federal budget that supports Read More

Maybe there’s something missing from the news reports regarding the recent hubbub over State Auditor Beth Wood’s report on the Alcohol Law Enforcement Section of the state Department of Public Safety, but it sure does seem that, at the least, the folks over at ALE could use a little public relations advice (and, perhaps, a strong word from on high).

Again, maybe I’m missing something, but since when do the heads of state offices like ALE get to hire lawyers who would presume to tell the state Auditor what she can and cannot do about auditing and reporting on that office? And even if they thought Wood was doing something inappropriate, aren’t there some channels to work through? After all, ALE is a section of a state agency that reports to the Governor

I know the Guv has a lot more important things to deal with, but it would seem that she might want to have her staff send a little memo over to ALE folks telling them to get with the program or, at least, come to them first before picking a public fight with another constitutional officer of the state.