WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

State budget negotiations continue

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North Carolina does not yet have a state budget for fiscal year 2019-20, but unlike with the federal government, there is no government shutdown. State law allows operations to continue to be funded at recurring levels from last year’s budget. Additionally, the N.C. House passed a bipartisan bill this week that will facilitate the use of federal dollars during this time without a state budget.

TEACHER PAY

One of the main points Gov. Roy Cooper wants to address in the budget is increased teacher pay. Teachers get a pay raise in the budget, but it is weak. Teachers would get a 3.8% raise spread out over two years. Governor Cooper’s budget included a 9.1% raise spread out over two years. If you look at total pay for teachers, the budget fell nearly $500 million short of what Governor Cooper had proposed.

MEDICAID EXPANSION

Every year, North Carolina fails to expand Medicaid. Billions of tax dollars we send to Washington do not come back to North Carolina. Expanding Medicaid brings that money back to close the health care coverage gap for 500,000 North Carolinians, and helps struggling rural hospitals who are stuck paying for care for people uninsured.

What would Medicaid expansion mean in Wilson County? According to the Cone Health Foundation report released last week, here is how Wilson County would benefit:

• 6,379 more people with health coverage

• 268 jobs created

• $695,000 more county tax revenue from 2020-22

• $59 million in county economic growth from 2020-22

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION

Wilson County also has large unmet needs for school facilities. Governor Cooper supports a statewide bond to pay for local school facilities. At first, the state House, Republicans and Democrats, backed the idea too. Unfortunately, the House majority switched over to a different proposal that uses existing capital funds. The problem with that approach is it is less money for local school needs and there is no guarantee of where the money goes. With a bond, each county knows exactly how much it’s getting and can plan accordingly.

COST OF LIVING

There is no cost-of-living adjustment for retirees in the budget. No COLA despite the fact we have $363 million for corporate tax cuts and $353 million for pork. No COLA despite the fact we are in year 10 of a national economic expansion. If this budget were to become law, we would have had three COLAs in the past 10 years plus the two years of this budget.

Although there is no COLA, the budget does include a one-time bonus of one-half of one percentage point in each year of the budget.

WHAT’S NEXT?

North Carolinians chose to elect a Democratic governor and a General Assembly with a Republican majority, but one where there are enough Democrats to sustain a veto. In essence, the voters elected a divided government. You expect us to compromise and reach common ground. That is what I am committed to doing and will work toward that goal until we have a state budget for all of North Carolina.

INFORMATION EXCHANGE

You are invited to Participate in a Wilson County legislative information exchange session followed by a Citizens’ Advisory Council session on Saturday, July 27.

The legislative information exchange will take place from 10-11 a.m. with the advisory council meeting following from 11 a.m. to noon. Both events will be held in the Wilson County Public Library assembly room, 249 Nash St. N.

Please RSVP and register to attend by July 25 at https://wilsoncolegislativeinfoexchange.eventbrite.com.

WOMEN OF COLOR IN POLITICS

On July 24, I will be involved in a very important discussion regarding the importance of women of color in politics. Many other members of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus are coordinating with the Scholars Strategy Network of North Carolina, and we will be discussing our important role in shaping policy for North Carolina. If you are free, I’d love for you to join me on June 24 at the Cannon Room in Raleigh. The event begins around 6 p.m.

If you’d like to know more about the event or register to attend, visit the Eventbrite page via the shortened link https://bit.ly/2LiNCuW.

Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, represents the entirety of Wilson County in the N.C. House. This column is adapted from her weekly email newsletter to constituents.

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