A group of activists interrupted a House committee meeting on Tuesday, demanding a “people’s budget” with expanded Medicaid, affordable housing and worker protections.
Members of the group, NC People’s Budget, stood up during the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee meeting, which did not allow public comment, and spoke over committee members.
“We are here for the people — the People’s Budget,” said a member of the group. “You failed to let us make a public comment on this budget and you passed this budget without the people.”
One other group member spoke up before the entire group was escorted out of the meeting. General Assembly Police arrested one member of the group following her comments.
Last week, the N.C. Senate gave preliminary approval to a $25.7 billion budget. Because the state has not passed a comprehensive budget in the last two years, there is a surplus of over $5 billion. The proposed budget would leave $3.6 billion unspent — money Democrats and activists say could be going to larger teacher raises, Medicaid expansion and more.
“We don’t have scarcity of resources, we actually have an abundance of resources,” Rebecca Cerese, a member of NC People’s Budget said. “We want real investments in North Carolina.”
Cerese is also the health engagement coordinator at the North Carolina Justice Center. The Justice Center is also a signatory of the People’s Budget platform. (NC Policy Watch is a project of the Justice Center.)
Among the People’s Budget’s priorities are increased wages, Medicaid expansion, rent and mortgage relief and more. The group is a broad coalition of progressive organizations, including Democracy NC, the NC Poor People’s Campaign and others.
Following the comments from activists, committee members went on to debate appropriations for Health and Human Services in the proposed Senate budget, which includes $5.76 billion for DHHS.
Rep. Gale Adcock, a Wake County Democrat, said that the budget missed the opportunity to provide health insurance to the over 500,000 uninsured people in the state, “Which, of course, would stabilize our rural hospitals and strengthen our behavioral health system, which is in crisis right now.”
Adcock also lamented the fact that the budget did not include raises for direct care workers, such as those who work in nursing homes and hospice.
The budget process is far from over, as the House still needs to approve their own version of the budget before they can collaborate with the Senate on a final version to send to Governor Roy Cooper. The legislature expects to have a budget on Cooper’s desk by the end of July.
UNC journalism student Kyle Ingram is a summer intern at NC Policy Watch.