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“We can’t afford it.” This is the prevailing refrain of state leaders nowadays in their efforts to explain away or rationalize their waning support for investing in North Carolina’s future.

Whether the issue is pay raises for K-12 teachers and other state employees, supporting targeted economic development initiatives, protecting the state’s natural resources and environment, one repeated excuse is that revenue is not available for such public investments.

This excuse was used once again in a memo by Art Pope, State Budget Director, in response to the UNC Board of Governors’ (BOG) 2014-15 budget request. In the memo, Pope informs the BOG that its budget “simply is not realistic” and warns that funding the respective budget request “would require the Governor and General Assembly to make major reductions in other state agencies and programs, such as our courts, the “K-12” public schools, and health care.

North Carolina is NOT broke. The costly tax plan passed by the NC General Assembly and signed into law by Governor McCrory last year has created a self-imposed budget challenge. This challenge is occurring, as Pope acknowledges, even as the economy is improving. Read More

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

Art Pope 3The North Carolina NAACP and other activist groups will commence a series of informational pickets today to shine more light on the rather amazing breadth and depth of the influence of state budget director, Art Pope. The pickets will take place today at 4:00 p.m. outside two of the chain stores owned by Pope’s Variety Wholesalers, Maxway and Rose’s.

The Maxway event will take place at 1905 Poole Rd. in Raleigh. The Rose’s event will take place  at University Mall, 201-C36 Estes Dr. Chapel Hill.

According to an announcement:

“The informational picket campaign is a statewide effort to raise awareness and demand that Budget Director Pope call for a reversal of extremist laws and policies passed in the 2013 Legislative Session and support the request for a Special Redemption Session of the North Carolina General Assembly to reverse course on two extremist policies, the denial of Medicaid and emergency unemployment benefits that will harm the most vulnerable members of our state.”

Learn more at the event’s Facebook page by clicking here.

This school year, approximately 56 percent of all students in North Carolina public schools come from families with incomes low enough to qualify for free and reduced lunch (up from 48 percent in 2008). Many students within this new majority require extra learning supports, as they lag their peers in core learning areas such as reading, math, and English.

The budget signed by Governor McCrory cuts funding in many areas that help boost student achievement. For the 2013-14 school year, these funding cuts have meant fewer classroom teachers, teacher assistants, instructional support, and instructional supplies. This raises concerns about what the failure to invest in public education means for future student performance. Read More

Bathroom cartoonThis week’s nominee for weirdest press release of the weekend has to be Governor McCrory’s official Saturday statement (see below) that “not one penny” of public money will be used to fix up the bathrooms in the executive mansion.

Frankly, though the price tag does sound a tad steep (nearly a quarter-million bucks) I don’t have a big problem with keeping such an important public building in working order — especially if it has been decades since the bathrooms were last renovated.   

What’s absurd, of course, is not that we (or someone) would invest in maintaining the mansion; it’s that McCrory, Pope et al. refuse to acknowledge that we also need to invest in other critical public structures. Let’s hope the Guv ponders this reality the next time he’s spending time in the mansion water closet.

Press Release

Statement from the Office of Governor Pat McCrory Read More