Raleigh – A week later, and it’s clear that Republicans’ special session was a failure that did not address any of the pressing needs of North Carolina.
News & Record: “Legislators returned to Raleigh last week, four months ahead of their normal schedule. While they had a chance to address some pressing issues, they mostly failed.”
First, Republicans refused to fix their class size mandate, which may prompt local tax increases.
News & Record: “If reducing class sizes is a worthy step, then it’s worth the state paying for it. If the legislature waits until May to deal with this issue, counties won’t have much time to set their own budgets. Some will have to consider property tax increases to pay the costs out of local funds. Others simply will force local school boards to cut spending elsewhere.”
Then, the Senate – including vulnerable Sens. Lee in Wilmington and Meredith in Fayetteville – refused to take up a solution to GenX.
News & Record: “North Carolina is playing with fire by weakening environmental protections. Will everyone in the state have to draw drinking water from plastic bottles before the Senate acts?”
Republicans defended their inaction on GenX by claiming that DEQ already has enough funding…
Coastal Review Online: “’DEQ’s got a lot of funding already and they’ve got a lot of people in place on the ground that should be taking care of a lot of these issues anyhow,’ [Senate Leader Brown] said.”
….despite years of Republican budget cuts that have left them understaffed and overstretched:
News & Record: “Even that amount of money [in the House GenX bill] would barely offset budget cuts that the legislature imposed on DEQ this year — let alone deeper cuts from previous years.”
Since 2010, DEQ has had 70 positions cut by austere budget cuts from the General Assembly – a 41 percent reduction in water quality and water resources staff. DEQ only has nine permit writers to cover 220 facilities; for comparison, South Carolina has twice as many writers (17) but 60 fewer facilities to cover (159).
“Republicans flat out refused to tackle the real needs of our state this special session – and local communities are the ones left to pick up the tab,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said. “Our Republican legislature must immediately fix the damage they’re doing to our school districts and give our environmental regulators the resources they need to protect our water quality.”