“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
― Groucho Marx
This a tale of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Actually, on closer examination, it’s more a tale of the bad and the ugly — not much good came out of Raleigh this past week.
North Carolina lawmakers finally approved a new budget for the coming fiscal year, but it’s not pretty.
The Legislature on Thursday approved the final Republican-authored state budget for next year — a plan that doesn’t raise taxes but fails to reduce public school cuts to the level sought by Gov. Beverly Perdue and fellow Democrats.
The House and Senate voted for the $20.2 billion spending plan, which adjusts the second year of the two-year budget approved in 2011.
It outlines a $251 million increase to education funding for the 2013 fiscal year, but the spending plan doesn’t go nearly far enough to stop the bleeding of the state’s educational system — the victim of earlier deep budget cuts.
The new spending plan was carved out from competing House and Senate plans after less than a week of formal negotiations. Proponents of the new budget noted the bill provides the first pay raise for public school teachers and state employees since 2008 and calculate there’s $251 million more for K-12 compared to what the two-year budget had allowed.
But Democrats balked at the $251 million figure, pointing out the amount incorporates the teacher pay raise. And the $503 million that school systems were expected to return to the state next school year was reduced by $143 million. The House spending plan had cut the $503 million by more than $330 million.
When the loss of $259 million in federal money used to hire 5,400 local school personnel is taken into account, the 115 districts combined would have $189 million less to work with next year, according to data provided by the General Assembly’s nonpartisan fiscal staff. Democrats said the decline is the equivalent of 3,400 education positions.
Other cuts within the University of North Carolina and community college systems that began last year weren’t restored, and neither were 20 percent reductions to Smart Start and North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten early childhood initiatives.
Here are two more head-scratching line items in the new budget: Legislators restored funding for a light-rail transportation project near Charlotte, but rejected the money promised as compensation for victims of sterilization.
The action is a slap in the face to the 146 verified living victims of a state-sanctioned eugenics program that forced sterilizations and castrations on people deemed unfit to bear children.
There are far too many lawmakers who seriously need to reevaluate their priorities.