North Carolinians call on NC Senate to place reinvestment at the core of their budget

RALEIGH, NC – June 8, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — With the NC Senate likely to release its budget later this week, service providers, parents and issue experts gathered this morning to highlight why reinvestment in North Carolina’s core public services should be at the center of the Senate’s proposal. These services –education, courts and public safety, mental health supports, affordable housing, and ready access to healthy foods – are critical to the well-being of all North Carolinians and the future of the state’s economy.

The NC House of Representative’s proposed budget plan offered the highest level of investments since the official economic recovery began in 2009 yet it still fell short of pre-recession levels of investments. At a press conference this morning, speakers urged the Senate to reset its priorities by stopping further tax cuts and building upon many of the key investments made in the House’s proposal.

“The Senate leadership is poised to pursue another round of tax cuts and choose severe and unnecessary fiscal restraint rather than reinvestment in services that will help build an economy for all,” said Tazra Mitchell, policy analyst with the NC Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center. “State investments are essential for our quality of life and economic opportunity—from our first glass of clean drinking water in the morning, to the public schools that shape the minds of our future workforce, and to the roads that businesses use to move their goods to market. All of this comes together in the state budget.”

NaShonda Cooke, a Durham teacher and parent, discussed why it is critical to reinvest in public education by funding basic school resources, teacher assistants, and Internet connectivity.

“This year’s [House] budget doesn’t cut any additional teachers’ assistants and for that we are grateful,” Cooke said. “But it also doesn’t act to restore funding for these much needed positions, even in the face of growing enrollment… It is my sincere hope that the Senate will also see that when we reinvest in education, the whole state benefits.”

Jessica Burroughs and Stephanie Lormand each described the impact of teachers in their children’s lives and why both the House and Senate budget should accurately reflect that impact by increasing pay that would help many teachers’ families make ends meet.

“As the parent of two children in the North Carolina public school system, I commend the House for continuing to invest in raising teachers’ pay so that we can maintain and recruit the excellent teachers that are the key to high-quality learning,” Burroughs said. “And I call upon the Senate to take similar actions in support of our kids, our teachers, and our economy.”

Lormand also called on the Senate to include changes the House made in its budget proposal which would provide more money for textbooks and reinstate child care subsidies for some families that were excluded due to policy enacted last year, as well as to go beyond the House proposal and invest more in early learning programs and classroom supplies. “I urge the Senate to follow the House’s example in recognizing the importance of investing in children right now in order to secure long-term success,” Lormand said.

Yvette Holmes, director of Community Partnerships & Development at DHIC, urged continued support for the State Low Income Tax Credit Program and the NC Housing Trust Fund, a state-funded and state-designated resource for financing affordable housing.

“Everyone deserves access to housing opportunities that they can afford,” Holmes said. “Regardless of your income level or personal circumstance, having a quality and affordable place to call home is essential to individual success and to creating a thriving economy.”

The future of North Carolina’s courts is also at stake in this budget, said Marcia H. Morey, a Chief District Court Judge in Durham. $80 million has been slashed from the budget over the last six years, 600 employee positions have been eliminated, and state funding for drug courts have been cut. The system is now the third to the bottom of all 50 states in terms of funding and resources.

“In a word, justice for our citizens is being suffocated,” Morey said. “It is past time to properly fund our starved system of justice. We serve you, the people of North Carolina. You deserve better than you have. Demand your legislators to do what is right and fair: restore adequate funding for your right to a strong system for justice.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Tazra Mitchell, tazra (at) ncjustice (dot) org, 919.861.1451; Jeff Shaw, jeff (at) ncjustice (dot) org, 503.551.3615 (cell).

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