THE RALEIGH REPORT
August 19, 2016
In 2011, when Republicans gained control of both the NC House and Senate, they immediately started dismantling some of the State’s most effective initiatives. One after the other: public schools, election law, state taxes, environmental regulations, early childhood education, local government control, UNC - all came under the axe. Long time legislators on both sides of the aisle were in disbelief. One senior Republican went so far as to warn House leadership they were overreaching and would pay the price at the polls in 2012. He was wrong.
In 2011, the Republican majority also controlled redistricting. So, they packed black voters into fewer districts to dilute their impact. In 2012, using the new maps, Republicans retained their existing seats and won enough more to claim supermajorities in both chambers. They also won the governor’s office. Over the next two sessions Republicans eliminated or weakened more programs, put automatic cuts in place to eliminate the corporate tax and made additional state income tax cuts. To make up part of the lost revenue they increased the sales tax on services, effectively transferring the tax duty from corporations and the very wealthy to moderate and low-income workers.
They had one disappointing failure. Moderate Republicans balked at a constitutional amendment limiting state budget growth to no more than growth in inflation and population. That’s TABOR, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. But, with their supermajorities, Republican leadership could impose TABOR principles without a law or constitutional amendment. So, they did, and more. The next two State budgets were actually less than what was projected using inflation and population growth for the coming year.
As a result, the state budget as a percent of the State economy has declined every year since 2010. At first, these decisions forced cuts that compromised major programs. Now, state spending is not even keeping up with rudimentary needs. Here are two examples.
A Waiting List for the CAP/C Program: North Carolina has a proud history of providing essential, life-saving services for medically fragile children through Medicaid CAP/C, Community Alternatives Program for Children. A typical CAP/C child uses medical devices that require maintenance by trained professional. This program is open to any family regardless of family income “if the assistance saves money over hospitalization or other residential care” – up to the number of slots the state funds. The State has typically funded new slots to keep up with the population growth. Recently, DHHS officials announced they would start a waiting list for newly identified children. Due to public outcry, the State will submit a new proposal to Medicaid to serve more children; but the children on the waiting list will likely be institutionalized – at a greater expense to the State and greater pain to the families. A five star program is compromised.
Wake County Schools Cut Janitorial Services: This week, Wake County school administrators proposed reducing the classroom-cleaning schedule to offset a budget shortfall. Classrooms are usually vacuumed 5 days a week. In 2012, Wake County Schools reduced the schedule to three days a week. Now, they propose cutting to only two days a week. For decades, the State funded local schools on a per pupil basis. In 2014, Republicans switched to a global budget. Now, as the population increases, the per-pupil funding falls. Local governments struggle to pick up the difference; but often end up making unfortunate cuts. Last week, NPR reported that Wake County teachers are taking in vacuum cleaners to ensure floors are swept every day.
Now, evidence is emerging that Republicans have indeed, over-reached.
A federal court of appeals panel agreed with Democrats that the Voter ID law targeted “African-Americans with almost surgical precision” and violated the US Constitution and the Voting Right Act. The ruling eliminates the photo ID requirement and restores early voting days, out of precinct voting, same day registration and pre-registration of 16 - 17 year olds. Republicans have asked US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, to stay the ruling for this election. He has asked for more information by Thursday.
The gerrymandered NC House and Senate districts were next to fall. On August 11, a federal district court panel found Republican lawmakers unconstitutionally used race to disadvantage black voters when they drew NC House and Senate district boundaries. Due to lack of time to redraw the districts before November, the federal court also ruled the existing NC House and Senate districts would stand for the 2016 elections.
North Carolina Democrats got more good news last week from the court of public opinion. The Marist poll had Clinton, Cooper and Ross all leading their Republican opponents. Recent polls show Democratic candidates for the NC House and Senate leading in enough districts to end the Republican supermajority.
Maybe Republicans, finally, will pay the price in the 2016 elections.
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.