Raleigh – Republicans revealed their budget late Monday and with it, their priorities: protecting their vulnerable members and rewarding corporations over our public schools.
The first full day of sunlight also laid bare the consequences of crafting a complex, $24 billion budget behind closed doors, as mistakes, oversights, ambiguities, and bad policy piled up throughout the day.
A “SweetTarte Deal” to Save a Vulnerable GOP Seat. Republicans gave $200,000 for school supplies to a handful of schools, including many affluent suburban schools, all within vulnerable GOP Sen. Tarte’s newly drawn – and very competitive – district. This “SweetTarte Deal” is a naked attempt to save a vulnerable member by leaving public schools outside of SD 41 out to dry and protecting Republicans’ tax cuts for corporations.
“Oversight” Ends Suicide Prevention Initiative. Republicans effectively defunded the North Carolina’s Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which receives an average of 255 calls per day and was included in Governor Cooper’s budget. This callous policy may be an error but, as WUNC noted, it’s an error that “would not be necessary” if the GOP hadn’t rushed through their budget.
“Monumental” Policy “Receiving Very Little Vetting” Could Upend Public Schools Across the State. The Republican budget paved the way to allow suburbs in Mecklenburg County to create and run their own charter schools and allowed those schools to ask municipal governments to “pony up” for funding. This “monumental” policy change received “very little vetting” and was so hastily written that it could affect the entire state. It even left Republicans and nonpartisan analysts scratching their heads:
“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen” – Charles Jeter, government relations coordinator for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and former GOP state legislator.
“This type of policy change raises tremendous questions going forward” – Scott Mooneyham, director of public affairs for the N.C. League of Municipalities.
“Some Ambiguity” Derails Light Rail. Republicans attacked economic development by zeroing out state funding for the planned passenger rail line between Durham and Chapel Hill. When Democratic Rep. Martin noted that the language effectively killed the project, GOP Sen. Jackson claimed, “that was not the intent.” Sen. Jackson’s staff then acknowledged that there was “some ambiguity” in the language, leading to confusion and further questions.
GOP “Backfills” Commitment to Early Childhood Education Programs instead of Expanding Them. Republicans took $50 million in new federal money for early childhood programs and, instead of expanding the programs to ensure they reach more young students, used it to backfill state funding moved to other parts of the budget. Fewer students will have access to early childhood education programs than in Governor Cooper’s budget because of this underhanded move.
Leaving our Rape Kit Backlog Untouched. Republicans refused to fund the statewide rape kit backlog after the Attorney General’s office found more than 15,000 untested rape kits last year. The Attorney General’s office requested funding to clear the backlog and create a system to ensure that North Carolina never gets to this point again, but Republicans refused.
Robbing Opioid Funding to Fund Religious Hunting Groups. Republicans raided a pool of money within Department of Health and Human Services that funds projects that fight the opioid epidemic to hand out $250,000 to a Christian hunting and fishing group for boys.
“It’s not shocking that crafting a $24 billion budget in secretive, smoke-filled rooms with only the input of special interests and vulnerable Republicans leads to oversights, ambiguities, and poorly crafted policy,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said. “It is shocking that Republicans are so terrified of taking votes on popular policies like better teacher pay and a fairer tax code, they’ll make North Carolina’s public schools, youngest students, and those suffering from mental illness pay the price.”