First a word about the heat. I have certainly missed the cooler temperatures of home when I’ve been in Raleigh recently! Especially a couple of weeks ago when my home away from home had a week long air conditioner melt down! It was a long week. It’s important for all of us to keep personal safety in mind as we experience these very hot days. Remembering to keep hydrated, and that our children should not be outdoors in 90 degree heat for longer than 30 minutes at a time. And don’t forget some water for woman’s best friend!
Now, here’s an article co-written with my Buncombe colleague, Rep. John Ager, D-115, a couple of weekends ago for the Asheville Citizen Times. If you missed it, I hope you’ll give it a read if you missed it before. Still current!
On Budget, Buncombe Deserves Action
For the sake of Buncombe County, we will commit to uphold Governor Cooper’s veto of legislative Republicans’ bad budget that does more to benefit wealthy corporations than actual citizens. Our districts will be deprived of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic growth if the Republicans have their way with the budget, and so we will stand shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues and Governor Cooper to negotiate a compromise budget that puts North Carolina first.
For the past several weeks, North Carolinians in our districts have watched budget talks drag on as General Assembly Republicans have repeatedly refused to come to the table to negotiate with the Governor to pass a budget that puts North Carolina families and communities first. Instead, they’ve put forth a budget that prioritizes corporate tax breaks over the lives of middle class and hard working families. Despite their claims of seeking compromise, Republicans have refused to engage in good faith negotiations. Instead, they’ve resorted to silly political games, even auctioning off state agencies in exchange for votes. These stunts do nothing to help our community. A responsible budget compromise will.
The GOP conference budget has allotted more funds for corporate tax breaks rather than for increasing teacher pay. It includes a slush fund that sets aside millions for projects that may never be built rather than utilizing a school bond – which would bring nearly $21 million to Buncombe County – at today’s historically low interest rates to help fund renovations and the construction of new schools responsibly. And, the Republican budget fails to close the health coverage gap through Medicaid expansion, which would increase access to affordable healthcare for working people, create thousands of jobs, and bring billions of dollars into our economy Governor Cooper has offered a responsible compromise that invests more in public education and healthcare, while cutting taxes, saving for the future and balancing the budget. The Republicans’ refusal to negotiate is hurting our communities by depriving them of potential growth and resources. Instead they have prioritized benefits to a few corporations over our schools, our economy and the health of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.
|North Carolinians across the state can only gain from Medicaid expansion. Right now, we are refusing to accept $11.7 billion in funding from 2020 to 2022. This would all come with no additional taxes and go towards providing over 600,000 hard-working North Carolinians across the state with the healthcare coverage they desperately need. The benefits of Medicaid expansion will be felt in every county of our state. For example, in Buncombe county, expanding Medicaid would create almost 1,300 new jobs, insure nearly 16,900 more people by 2022, and generate $267.1 million in economic growth from 2020-2022. It only hurts our community’s future to pass up this opportunity in the budget.|
We want to vote for a budget that will move our community forward and the current budget proposal only pulls us backwards. We are ready to join Governor Cooper to find common ground with our Republican colleagues and to find a solution that benefits our entire state. It’s time for Republican leaders to put an end to the political games and join us at the negotiating table for the sake of all North Carolinians.For Buncombe County and North Carolina as a whole, the choice is obvious: Medicaid expansion must be enacted. We will stand up for the health and prosperity of the people we represent and uphold this veto. These are people’s lives and livelihoods on the line, and we will continue to fight for a budget that will protect them.
Rep. John Ager (D) has represented NC House District 115, which captures the majority of Buncombe County, since 2015. He lives with his family in Fairview, North Carolina
Rep. Susan Fisher (D) has represented NC House District 114, which houses Asheville and part of Buncombe County, since 2005. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.
|State Budget Impasse|
North Carolina’s State Budget runs on the fiscal year (July 1 through June 30). We are now nearly a month into the current 2019/2020 fiscal year with no State Budget. The State Budget is the roughly $25 billion plan for how state government raises and spends money.
What does it mean to not have a State Budget?
The good news is North Carolina is not the federal government. We have a state law in place that provides funding to state government services at the same recurring level as last year until a new State Budget is passed. So there are no disruptions yet to state parks, government offices, state services, etc.What are the downsides to not having a State Budget?North Carolina is growing and so is our economy. That means we have growing spending needs and also growing tax revenue. Relying on what we did last year allows us to muddle along, but does nothing to address problems like the need to increase teacher and state employee pay and closing the health care coverage gap.
What is the hold up?The General Assembly passed a State Budget that had good parts, but also some significant shortcomings. The main problems were:· Failure to use federal tax dollars we send to Washington to expand Medicaid and close the health care coverage gap here in North Carolina.· Additional corporate tax cuts that diverts money away from public education.· Expansion of private school vouchers that diverts money away from public education.· Refusal to use statewide bond package to fund local school construction and clean water projects across the state.Governor Cooper vetoed the budget because of these problems (and others). House and Senate Democrats have enough votes to sustain Governor Cooper’s veto which means we do not have a State Budget unless both sides compromise.
On July 7th, Governor Cooper, Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue, and House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson sent a compromise proposal to legislative leaders. Legislative leaders rejected the proposal and have so far refused to make a counter proposal. So we are at an impasse with no State Budget.
I support the efforts to close the health care coverage gap, stop the corporate tax cuts, and use those funds for public education, teacher pay, and state employee compensation. We also need a statewide bond referendum for voters to consider that would take advantage of low interest rates to provide a guaranteed stream of funding for local school construction and clean water projects across North Carolina.
House GOP leadership delays vote on state budget veto override for 11th consecutive sessionWinston-Salem Journal
Standoff over Medicaid and budget drags on. For the uninsured, there’s a lot at stake.The News & Observer
NCGA budget has millions in earmarks for parks, water infrastructure in mostly Republican districtsWBTV
Our view: Stand firm for Medicaid expansionWinston-Salem Journal
Opinion: Is NC’s budget fight showing cracks in Phil Berger’s power?The News & Observer
OUR VIEW: Top 12 reasons N.C. needs to expand MedicaidWilmington Star-News
Column: In budget fight, North Carolina’s well-being is at stakeThe News & Observer
Opinion: Mixed news for women’s health in North CarolinaFayetteville Observer
|Modest School Safety Bill Passes|
Unfortunately, legislative leaders refuse to consider any gun safety bills that would make our communities and schools safer and promote responsible gun ownership. This week the House and Senate did pass SB 5 to improve school safety in our classrooms. It’s a small step and one my colleagues and I will continue to work to build on with real gun safety reforms.
Here is some of what is in SB 5:· Provide public safety training for school personnel.· Require annual vulnerability assessments for each public school building.· Require threat assessment teams be established at each public school.· Require local boards of education to require peer-to-peer support programs at all schools with grades six and higher.· Provide funding for an anonymous safety tip hotline app for local schools.
Here are some common-sense gun safety proposals that legislative leaders have blocked in any Senate or House bill:
· Ban bump stocks that turn guns into fully automatic weapons.· Require assault permits for weapons and long guns, as we do for handguns.· Prohibit sales of assault weapons/long guns to 18, 19, and 21 year olds.· Require safe storage of firearms.· Limit the size of high capacity ammunition magazines.
School safety measure nears passageWRAL
|In Other News|
Gov. Cooper at Dosher: Medicaid expansion would help countySouthport State Port Pilot
Gov. Cooper Visits Dosher Memorial Hospital To Talk Health CareWilmington Business Journal
Gov. Cooper visits Southport, talks Medicaid expansionWilmington Star-News
Early childhood teachers struggle with concerns about health careGoldsboro News-ArgusTwo Alamance families talk Medicaid expansion with governorBurlington Times News
State budget includes money for crisis pregnancy centers despite previous misuse of fundingThe Progressive PulseNC law doesn’t ban transgender people from bathrooms matching their identity, judge saysThe Charlotte Observer
|Thank you for your continued interest in state government. I hope you will contact me if I can be of help.|
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