Angelina Nicolosi CFNN Reporter
Trouble is stirring in the North Carolina General Assembly.
While the House Democrats and Democratic Governor Roy Cooper were honoring victims of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, House Republicans called for an impromptu vote on the state budget. The proposed budget was previously vetoed by Governor Roy Cooper.
The veto was overturned by a vote of 55-9 in the House. There are normally 120 members in the House of Representatives, yet only 64 were present to cast a vote.
The actions of Speaker of the House Tim Moore have been widely condemned by newspapers, politicians, and public figures alike. Governor Roy Cooper publicly expressed his disgust with actions taken in the House.
“Unfortunately, it’s the people of North Carolina who lose,” Cooper said in a press conference on the subject.
State Rep. David Lewis told Democratic House Minority Leader Darren Jackson that there would be no vote that morning. Jackson relayed the information, letting Democrats know they were free to attend the 9/11 memorial.
When they learned the vote was going forward, Democrats sprinted back to the house to try to cast their votes, but it was too late. Only nine Democrats were present to cast their ballots, and all voted no.
The partisan divisions don’t stem for a hatred of Democrats or Republicans as a whole, but rather aspects of the budget that hurt the people of North Carolina to the benefit of big businesses, as well as the ambiguous nature of the vote.
While the proposed budget raises the education budget by 3.3% or $269 million, the funds will mostly go towards charter schools. Provisions for teacher pay raises are largely intended as a means to fully implement existing programs such as a $50 bonus per student who passes a given AP exam. Creation of eight new innovative tech high schools are in the budget, too.
Meanwhile, the spending gap between wealthy and poor counties is growing larger and larger.
According to the 2019 Local School Finance Study, the 10 highest spending counties spend $3,200 per student, while the 10 lowest spending counties spend just $755 per student. The new budget does nothing to address this issue.
Large gaps in spending such as this prevent a student living in rural Appalachia from receiving the same high-quality education as a student living in Wake county. Furthermore, richer counties are offered more money for bonuses to attract highly skilled teachers. Rural, poorer counties don’t have that advantage, and skilled teachers are often drawn away due to the pay raises elsewhere.
The budget also decreases funding for the Wildlife Resources Commission by 23%. University centers that work on energy issues at N.C. State University, Appalachian State University, and N.C. A&T University are facing 7% budget cuts, which could impact federal funding.
In 2015, North Carolina ranked 22nd for eco-friendliness, but 39th overall for water quality out of all 50 states. North Carolina also received an “F” grade for keeping lead out of public school drinking water, according to the Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund.
Lead can impair cognitive development in young children and adolescents. This can lead to irritability, learning issues, delayed growth, hearing loss, and in severe cases, permanent brain damage or even death.
Again, the new budget does not address this issue. Instead, it takes funding from environmental groups and does not invest money into this issue of lead in public school drinking water.
The budget still has to go to the Senate floor in order for the veto to be overturned. It will require a 2/3rds vote to be passed.
If you’d like to vocalize your opinion on the budget, write to your local state Senator. You can find out who your Senator is here.