As we wait for the House budget proposal, it is worth digging deeper into the shortcomings of the Senate budget proposal, the passage of which marks the first completed step in the process during which the Senate, House, and Governor must come to agreement about how to fund the needs of a growing state more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic.
The budget proposed would leave North Carolina more than $7 billion below historical investment levels as a share of the state’s economy during a time of unprecedented and ongoing need. The proposal also includes a suite of tax cuts that would overwhelmingly benefit wealthy North Carolinians and corporations along with their shareholders, and the full impact of the revenue loss when the tax changes are fully implemented — while not completely yet known — would exceed $5 billion annually.
The Senate’s two-year plan once again chooses corporations and the richest over everyday North Carolinians — a vision that has yet to result in tangible improvements in a host of areas where people continue to be blocked from their full potential and greater well-being. Investments in the sound, basic education that the state has a constitutional obligation to provide will go woefully unmet if this plan becomes law, as will the need for our state to finally expand Medicaid to ensure that hundreds of thousands more North Carolinians can receive care when they need it. These and many other opportunities have been missed through this first major step in the budget process, and should the ideas from the Senate be agreed to by the House and the Governor, North Carolina will continue down a harmful path for its people.
- Failing to make progress toward ensuring a sound, basic education. The Senate budget fails to make meaningful progress toward providing North Carolina students the education they are owed under our constitution in direct violation of a June 7 court order issued as part of the long-running Leandro school funding case. That order requires the General Assembly to fully implement the first two years of a seven-year plan to deliver a constitutional education system by the 2027-28 school year. The Senate budget would fund just 13 percent of the plan, eschewing the evidence-based, court-ordered plan to improve the recruitment and retention of diverse teachers and principals, create a finance system that’s adequate and equitable, support low-performing schools and districts, overhaul a discriminatory school accountability system, and create improved connections to college and careers.
- Short-term and inadequate funds for equitable early education. The Senate budget fails to meaningfully ramp up investments in NC Pre-K, Smart Start, childcare subsidies, or boosting pay for childcare workers and pre-kindergarten teachers, that is also required by a June 7 Leandro cort order. The Senate budget marginally increases per-slot funding for NC Pre-K but does not increase the number of available slots. While it provides some funding for Smart Start, these funds are one-time only, so the system does not receive continued investment. State dollars would have provided ongoing support to North Carolina’s youngest children and their families and would have helped ensure that federal funds lead to transformative change. Instead, the Senate budget relies on American Rescue Plan funding, which does not meet our state’s long-term needs or Leandro requirements.
- Choosing to pass on a key fiscal incentive to expand health care access. Senate leaders failed to address the lack of affordable health care access for more than 500,000 North Carolinians. Read more