North Carolina lawmakers discuss budget amid growing disagreements over spending allocations

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) — At a meeting Wednesday in downtown Raleigh at the Legislative Office Building, joint members of the state legislature gathered to outline what all is included in the recently released 192-page state budget.

And of course, what was left out.

“There’s so much we can do for people’s back pockets and this budget falls just short of almost every metric,” said Democratic Rep. Craig Meyer, who represents Orange and Caswell counties. “Republicans will tell you, ‘oh, we’re doing more.’ But when you have families that are hurting, those families have a bottom line. They know what’s enough. And sometimes more isn’t enough.”

State lawmakers have a $6 billion surplus ahead of budget discussions and proposals they have been tasked with figuring out how to spend.

Among the main highlights of the budget:

  • 2% of sales tax revenue to cover decline in transportation revenue
  • $70 million to increase teachers’ supplemental pay, including increasing starting salaries for teachers and school employees to see a 4% increase or a minimum of $15/hour; the one who is the greatest
  • $32 million for school safety equipment and training; includes funding for more School Resource Officers (SROs)
  • $80 million reserved for the retention and recruitment of government employees
  • 1% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for state pensioners
  • a “healthy” fund for rainy days

Some, like Rep. Meyer, think that with a budget of $27.9 billion, they think there isn’t enough money in the right hands. “We are in the best financial position this state has ever been in,” Meyer said. “But, people are hurting right now. And this budget is not helping people in their back pockets like we have the capacity to do.”

An educator from Durham, Dr. Turquoise Parker has worked in the field of education for over a decade. While she, among others, will receive a raise – she wants North Carolinians to exercise their right to vote who otherwise choose not to. “There are a lot of people who don’t vote because they don’t think their vote has any real impact on anything,” Parker said. “And I would like to impress upon our citizens of North Carolina that I am an example of your vote.”

Forsyth County Republican Rep. Donny Lambeth said: “A lot has changed since we last visited here and voted on the budget in November in terms of the economy and the possibility of a recession. And we’ve met with economists and we have been warned to be very careful because they believe we are in the early stages of a recession.”

This budget fails to introduce Medicaid expansion and does not offer any additional tax cuts that had already been debated in previous budgets.

“I think there are people who won’t like it,” Lambeth said. “I think there are a lot more people who like it than people who don’t.”

“Your vote matters because the people who are making a difference in this, in the lives of all these people, are at the general meeting in Jones Street and they are there because someone voted for them or someone didn’t,” Parker said.

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James V. Hayes