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May 5, 2017

Crossover week is behind us. I have included highlights below. The next big item is the State budget. The State Senate will introduce and pass its budget next week and send it to the House for our consideration.

Governor Cooper has already put forward his proposed budget. It provided for a 5% teacher pay raise this year and next year, restored the child care tax credit, did not raise taxes or fees, expanded Medicaid, invested new money in Smart Start for the first time since 2008, and created NC GROW scholarships to help high school graduates attend NC community colleges.

Smart Start Investments Have Not Increased Since 2008

Smart Start and early childhood education is a proven tool to help set up children for a lifetime of success. By reaching kids early, we can ensure that they are prepared for school and get the education they need to compete for good jobs right here at home. Smart Start works - and it’s time for us to invest in our children's future instead of offering more tax giveaways to millionaires and giant corporations.

Governor Cooper has put forward a plan to increase Smart Start investment for the first time since 2008. His plan would bring $211, 171 into Orange County’s local Smart Start partnership.

Governor Cooper Promotes NC GROW Scholarships

Another feature of Governor Cooper's budget is the NC GROW scholarship program. NC GROW stands for "NC Getting Ready for Opportunities in the Workforce." The idea is that recent high school graduates looking at community college who have exhausted financial aid options would receive a NC GROW scholarship to cover the remaining tuition and fees.

In Orange County, an estimated 482 students could have benefitted from this program had it been in existence this year. Hopefully, they found other ways to pursue the community college education and training they needed. But these decisions are too important to leave to hope.

The financial obstacles that keep our young people from community college are small when you look at the big picture. And all of us will benefit as a better trained workers leads to more jobs and better jobs.

Restore the Child Care Tax Credit

Another highlight of Governor Cooper’s budget is the creation of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to help middle class families.

Statewide, more than 200,000 North Carolina families would benefit from Cooper’s Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. In Orange County, an estimated 2,780 families would benefit.

Good childcare is expensive and this credit will help bring down the costs that working families face. If we do not make good child care accessible, working parents will struggle to keep and advance in their jobs. We need to provide resources that encourage people to work and make it easier for them to provide for and care for their families.

General Assembly Honors UNC Men's Basketball Team

The General Assembly took a break from more serious matters to honor the UNC Men's Basketball team for winning a national championship this year. I was one of eight legislators selected to speak to honor the team. Thank you to Coach Williams and the Tar Heels for representing North Carolina so well on the national stage!

Crossover News from last week

Crossover is the deadline created by our legislative rules that required many bills to pass either the House or the Senate by April 27 or be dead for the rest of the session. Following are some issues addressed.

Temporary HB 13 Fix Passes; Real Fight Ahead to Fully Fund Schools

HB 13 is a temporary reprieve from a no win situation. Without HB 13, our schools and kids will suffer. It would lead to firing arts, music, and other specialist teachers in exchange for hiring more early grade teachers. No one wants that and it is good that HB 13 will become law. Yet House Democrats believe we do not need to choose between the kindergarten teacher and the art teacher – we need both.

Year after year of tax cuts that focused on the most wealthy have left us with only bad choices. Incredibly, the Republicans are pushing another $1 billion in tax cuts to make the bad options even worse.

We need to follow Governor Cooper's proposed budget. No more tax cuts for the wealthy or tax increases on working families. Increase teacher pay by 5% this year and next. Fully fund lower class sizes and the specialist teachers down the hall. Start making North Carolina a leader in public education again.

Campus Free Speech Bill (HB 527)

HB 527 is a solution in search of a problem. State politicians should leave our universities alone and not rush through one-size-fits all policies in response to things that may be happening in other states.

Our universities should be places where free speech is respected and young men and women can learn and grow. Across the state, universities are assets to their local communities.

Legislating is about making priorities. We should focus our legislative time on things like Medicaid expansion that will bring jobs and health care to North Carolina rather than creating political battles to fight in our university system.

Eye Care Study

It has not gotten a lot of public attention, but no bill has been more fiercely fought over than HB 36. This is not a case of Republican versus Democrat; it is optometrist versus ophthalmologists. Both are eye health care providers. HB 36 was an effort by the optometrists to win approval to do eye laser surgeries that is being added to their scope of practice.

After fierce and unrelenting lobbying for weeks by both sides, legislators voted to ask the NC Institute of Medicine to conduct a study of the issue. Hopefully, the study will offer valuable guidance on what is best for patient care.

Unnecessary Anti-Worker Constitutional Amendment (HB 819)

HB 819 puts on the ballot a constitutional amendment to put North Carolina's Right to Work laws in the NC Constitution. It passed on a party-line vote. This amendment is a political stunt by the Republicans and a distraction from the issues we should be working on: increasing teacher pay, creating jobs, and saving rural hospitals and expanding health care access through Medicaid expansion.

HB 819 doubles down on anti-worker legislation that makes it more difficult for North Carolinians to ask for higher wages and safer workplaces. This is part and parcel of the trickle-down economic policy pushed by Republicans. Year after year they’ve cut taxes for big businesses and the wealthy at the expense of the middle-class and investments in our schools.

As a result, more and more North Carolinians have been left behind - and even those that have jobs have seen stagnant wages. We need to put workers first, not big corporate donors. HB 819 does the opposite.

How to Engage

It's tough to keep track of what is happening. Here are some ways to stay involved.

1. Call me or my legislative assistant Gina Insko at 919-733-7208 or email me at Inskola@ncleg.net with How can I get involved in the subject line.
2. Follow us on Twitter at @verlainsko and Facebook at Verla Insko.
3. Visit ncleg.net where you can see bills, listen to session, and see daily calendars.
4. Help us spread the word on social media or by forwarding this newsletter and other alerts or key news items.

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.

Verla Insko

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Verla Insko, NC House · 300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 502 LOB · Raleigh, NC 27603-5925 ·
Phone (919) 733-7208 · Mobile (919) 618-9889 · E-mail verla.insko@gmail.com or verla.insko@ncleg.net