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Democrats slam GOP budget

Published 9:23am Tuesday, May 28, 2013

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Senate, voting along party lines, approved a $20.58 billion budget on Wednesday, but not without heated debate.

Senate Democrats from rural areas condemned the proposed Republican budget, citing harmful cuts to working families in rural communities to pay for tax handouts to the super-wealthy.

Senate Democratic Leader Martin Nesbitt, Sen. Michael Walters (D-Robeson), Sen. Clark Jenkins (D-Edgecombe) and Sen. Angela Bryant (D-Nash) heavily criticized the proposal for its devastating cuts to rural economic development, education and healthcare.

They say the budget eliminates guaranteed funding for road and bridge construction and maintenance in rural areas, cuts Medicaid reimbursement for rural hospitals making it harder to remain open, and ends NC Education Lottery funding for school construction. The Democrats say Republican leaders also plan to raise sales taxes on services and goods vital to working families, including food, prescription drugs, and Social Security.

Most controversially, Democrats say the budget significantly cuts funds for rural economic development, including the elimination of funding for Golden LEAF the NC Rural Center, as well as several other entities that fund job recruitment and creation in rural communities. Finally, the budget eliminates the regional economic development boards that allow communities to work together to create new jobs in the area.

“Funds from the Golden LEAF are from tobacco manufacturers that are supposed to go towards creating jobs in rural communities. This is wrong,” said Sen. Walters.

“The proposed budget is blatantly destroying rural communities. This is about priorities and we are cutting programs that are essential to the people of this state. All of this is being paid for on the backs of middle class families. We’ve seen an agenda that doesn’t stand up for rural North Carolina, and this budget makes it difficult for them to stand up for themselves,” said Nesbitt.

Senator Jenkins, whose area of representation includes Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties, remarked, “This budget extends and widens the divide between the haves and the have nots. It works in conjunction with the Republican plan to raise sale taxes on middle class families. All of the programs that help people to survive are being stripped away.”

“These cuts do very little to help build capacity of rural areas to in preparing communities needing the most assistance to participate in economic development activities,” said Bryant.

The Democrats were not alone in their concerns over the proposed budget, which now faces debate in the NC House of Representatives. The NC Budget and Tax Center released the following statement this week:

“The budget passed by the Senate today is fiscally irresponsible. Senators approved a spending plan without details on how they will pay for it. Instead, they put in a place-holder for their tax plan that will cost $770 million over two years, meaning higher taxes for middle- and low-income North Carolinians, and cuts to investments that are vital to our state’s economy.

“Senate leaders haven’t given North Carolinians many details on the tax plan, but we do know that the majority of North Carolinians will be paying more, while taxes for the wealthy and profitable corporations will be cut. Because of the huge price tag, the state will have to make damaging cuts to things families and our economy depend on, like our neighborhood schools and world-class universities which build a skilled workforce and encourage innovation.

There’s no question that the inability of Senate leaders to rebuild the foundations of economic growth in this budget was due to these damaging tax cuts, not Medicaid costs as some have claimed.”

Meanwhile, the state’s GOP leadership is praising the proposed budget.

“In spite of a massive $1.2 billion shortfall in Medicaid, the Senate has passed a balanced budget that funds our state’s core priorities, demands greater government efficiency and accountability, and strengthens public education – without raising taxes. I’m proud of the Senate’s commitment to delivering budgets that reasonably and responsibly direct available resources toward real needs. This plan sets a solid foundation on which North Carolina will move forward,” said Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), President Pro Tempore of the NC Senate.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory also weighed-in on the Senate’s budget plan, saying, “We are very pleased the Senate’s budget proposal aligns with some of our major priorities and specific goals with jobs, energy, transportation and Medicaid. However, there are several areas that need further dialogue as they differ from the budget and policies I have previously laid out.”

McCrory said those areas needing further review include eliminating Special Superior Court judges, transfer of the SBI, exclusion of drug treatment courts, no salary increases for state employees, no expansion of pre-K, and no eugenics compensation.

Republican leaders stress that the $20.58 billion plan offers a prudent 2.3 percent increase in overall spending while laying the groundwork for the largest tax cut in state history. It accomplishes this while including over $1.2 billion in additional state dollars to fund out-of-control, unexpected costs in Medicaid, a runaway federal entitlement program that is diverting funds away from priorities like education, transportation and our judicial system.

“This budget stands in sharp contrast to the failed attempts of previous leaders to tax, spend and borrow their way to prosperity. Voters clearly demonstrated they expect their leaders to balance the budget without raising taxes – and we did that,” said Berger.

The Senate Budget proposal is posted to www.ncleg.net.

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