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Two stories really symbolize the state of North Carolina state government this morning on the first day of Fiscal Year 2016:

The first is the gridlock that’s starting to grip the state’s public schools. With a final state budget agreement light years away and few clear indicators from state leaders as to where things are headed — other than perhaps slashing thousands of teacher assistants — Raleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning that “At least one-third of North Carolina’s school systems are suspending their driver’s education programs this summer until they learn whether they’ll receive any state money to help pay for the classes.”

Meanwhile, the second part of the story is crystallized in yesterday’s edition of the Fitzsimon File in which my colleague Chris Fitzsimon — who has closely observed North Carolina politics for the past three decades — explained how extraordinary the latest inaction by the General Assembly is:

“House and Senate leaders couldn’t meet their budget deadline of June 30, the end of the state fiscal year, so they approved a continuing budget resolution this week to give themselves 45 more days.

Next week they will be on vacation and two weeks after that many Republican lawmakers plan to be in San Diego for the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

It’s true, as supporters of the General Assembly have pointed out, that not having a final budget by June 30 is relatively common. Lawmakers have passed continuing resolutions many summers while they hashed out final budget details.

But the resolutions usually come after some effort at negotiations between House and Senate budget writers and the extensions are usually for 10 days or maybe two weeks, not a month and a half.

And there’s never been a case when lawmakers gave themselves 45 more days and promptly took the next week off. It’s especially noteworthy coming from Republicans, who promised a more transparent and efficiently run General Assembly when they won control of the House and Senate in the 2010 election.”

In short, state legislative leaders — who promised to “run government like a business” — are instead fiddling, Nero-like, while core state services they have already badly undermined crumble around them. All in all, it’s quite a mess. Perhaps the business they had in mind was Enron.

Happy Fiscal New Year!

2015 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center, Women and the Economy

One of the most pressing concerns for any working family with children in North Carolina is to figure out a child care arrangement for children that allows parents to work and provide for their family, and allows children to learn and grow in a safe and stimulating setting when not in parental care. This is especially challenging because of the high cost of child care, as noted in these recently released state fact sheets by Child Care Aware of America. There are a few options available for families who earn low to moderate wages including the child care subsidy program which provides financial assistance to working families who need help paying for child care. Unfortunately this critical building block that makes life work for working families has been crumbling due to recent policy decisions by North Carolina lawmakers.

In our newest edition of Prosperity Watch, we feature a report released this month by NC Child detailing the impact made by child care subsidy policy changes passed by North Carolina lawmakers last year. These changes amounted to the loss of financial assistance for thousands of North Carolina families, including reducing income eligibility levels to qualify for the program, elimination of prorated fees for part-time child care (meaning many families will no longer be able to afford care), as well as counting income of a non-parent relative caregiver like a grandparent against the child’s eligibility for subsidies.

The map below provides a county by county breakdown of the more than 6,000 children who have lost or will lose access to child care subsidies from the change to the income eligibility provision alone.

PW 50-4

 

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Commentary

Budget_cleaver-150x150This past week I visited Charleston, South Carolina to lay flowers and show support to the people of Charleston and the victims of the Emanuel AME Church shootings. The place buzzed with activists, reporters, and policy makers, including the mayor and governor. Across the nation, political pundits, academics, candidates, law makers, and others have posed a question: “Why did this happen, and what policies will fix this?”

The answers to these questions are neither new nor give us the insight we truly need to begin to remove hatred such as this from our society.

In North Carolina, we are especially equipped to answer the first question. From the 1898 Wilmington coup d’état to this year’s Islamophobia inspired killings of Chapel Hill residents, we have endured many years of hate-inspired violence. We understand and have long dealt with the perverse attitudes that fuel this type of ignorance.

The second question (“What policies will fix the problem?”) does not begin to address the real issue at hand.

The better question is: “Do our laws and policies exemplify the values we want our society to stand for?” In order to combat hatred and ignorance, state legislatures must reevaluate the underlying messages their policies embody.

We do not have a policy issue. We have a values issue. Take, for example, the debate about the state budget.

Fiscal policy is about more than meeting revenue goals and growing the economy, it’s about creating a just and moral society; a society in which the leadership sets the example of how we value and treat individuals. When we refuse to provide all children with access to quality pre-K, when we fail to create equitable education experiences, when we cripple the state’s higher education system, when we fail to support families, when we ignore out-of-work North Carolinians, when we prioritize corporations and neglect individuals, we send a clear message. Read More

Commentary, News

The two stories trending on Twitter this afternoon are the Senate’s passage of their $21.5 billion state spending plan, and the arrest of Dylann Storm Roof, the suspect in the tragic Charleston church shooting.

Here are some of the leading tweets on both stories:

#CharlestonShooting:

 

Commentary

McCrory_budget305-aIt has been a rough couple of weeks for Governor Pat McCrory. First, the House and Senate overrode his vetoes of the so-called ag-gag bill and the legislation that allows magistrates to refuse to marry gay couples if they have a religious objection to marriage equality.

Then Monday Senate leaders rolled out a budget that refuses to restore the state historic tax credit program that McCrory has spent months promoting across the state. The budget also includes a plan to change how local sales tax revenue is distributed that McCrory vigorously opposes, and a proposal to reform Medicaid that McCrory’s appointees at DHHS don’t support.

And to add insult to injury, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger told reporters that he does not see the need for a transportation bond issue—another top McCrory priority—preferring instead to stop budget transfers out of the highway fund to raise money for highway projects.

It is the latest reminder that the folks running the Senate believe they are in charge in North Carolina regardless of what the governor of their own party believes.