THE RALEIGH REPORT
December 19, 2014
As the 2014 calendar year comes to a close, I extend to you and your loved ones the best of wishes this holiday season and New Year. I appreciate your ongoing support of my work in Raleigh on your behalf and look forward to hearing from you and working with you as I begin my 10th term in the NC House on January 14.
I met recently with Gatewood Apartments residents and Justice United leaders regarding health and safety issues at the Hillsborough complex, as did Congressman David Price. I connected the group with the NC Housing Finance Agency that funds and monitors subsidized housing and was pleased to learn that Gatewood management will work with the resident to address the problems.
Last week, State Senator Tamara Barringer and I met with graduate students in the UNC School of Public Health Public Health to discuss effective advocacy and to hear their proposals for legislation. We both enjoyed the interaction and were impressed with the students’ recommendations and their convincing defense.
General Assembly News
Republicans will continue to enjoy a super (veto proof) majority in both the NC House and Senate. They gained one seat in the NC Senate giving them a 32 to 18 advantage. In the NC House, Democrats won four seats and lost one but are still at a 46 to 74 disadvantage.
Now, seven weeks after the General Election, most observers agree Republicans enjoyed another national sweep. NC House Democrats provided some relief by defeating four Republicans. They were the only minority caucus in the nation to win back any seats with the exception of one other chamber that regained one seat.
The record win by NC House Democrats was impressive enough that Rep. Larry D. Hall (D, Durham) was elected to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Board of Directors. The DLCC plans and implements campaign strategies to win seats in state legislatures. NC House Democrats also recently re-elected Hall to be their leader for the 2015-16 session of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Issues to Watch
The State budget is always the most important bill passed in the long session. With the recent report that state revenues are $190 million short of projected for this time of year, everyone is paying close attention. And, the second round of income tax cuts that goes into effect on January 1 reducing state revenue $250 million on top of the $750 billion cut last year. The state budget is definitely an issue to watch.
The State Board of Education’s expansion budget for the next two years includes in the “necessary” category is an additional $77 million to address the serious shortage of textbooks – and parent strong objections to the problem.
Since 2010, when the GOP gained the majority in the General Assembly, our student population has increased by about 44,000 while the per pupil funding has decreased by $130. Our Fiscal Division now projects that over the next five years the enacted tax cuts will result in a revenue loss of $5 billion, making it difficult to restore the budget cuts to education.
Similarly, the campuses in the UNC system face a challenge when their enrollment growth increases that have been funded automatically in the base budget are moved to compete with other items in the expansion budget.
Helping North Carolina Counties and Cities
According to the Economic Security Commission, the unemployment rate in 53 of our 85 rural counties is around10.7%. To help address this lag in recovery, the Governor has proposed sending more of the state sales tax from urban counties that have more shopping centers to rural counties with high unemployment rates. It’s not yet clear how the urban counties will respond.
Meanwhile, the NC League of Municipalities may ask the General Assembly to authorize a special sales tax to replace $62 million lost when the General Assembly repealed the privilege license tax paid by companies that do business within municipalities. The Governor is asking to have the privilege license tax restored.
Medicaid Reform/Medicaid Expansion
House and Senate Republicans appear to be at a standoff when it comes to Medicaid. Senate Republicans are pushing for reforming the system by contracting with commercial managed care. The oppose Medicaid expansion. House Republicans are more comfortable with Medicaid expansion but want to retain the basic organization as it is now with some modifications.
As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.